“Lewis Carroll didn’t get it right?”
“No, my dear. I don’t think anyone truly will.”
Far away and down a rabbit hole sits the magical world known as Wonderland. A safe haven for the souls who lived less than ideal lives in the waking world get to experience peace in their afterlife. Jessica is the newest member of this enchanted land, but after eating a cookie that took away her memories of who she was, she doubts herself at every turn.
Jessica participates in The Looking Glass Ceremony to find her new role in the afterlife, but fate has different plans. As the Queen of Hearts takes Jessica under her royal wing, plots of regicide bubble up from the depths of Wonderland. With the help of new and eccentric friends, Jessica might be able to stop the treasonous threats and bring true peace to Wonderland. But only if she heeds the cryptic words of the Caterpillar.
Wandering Wonderland by Aislinn Honeycutt was a cozy novel. It promises character intimacy but instead keeps the reader at a distance. The overarching story takes precedence over character-reader intimacy. The political history in this version of Wonderland was intriguing. Honeycutt exhibits a tremendous talent in using setting and plot to tell a full story in a short book without multiple active plotlines. The plot point where Jessica is very briefly The Queen of Spades before being reintroduced as the Princess of Hearts felt like an about-face in the middle of the story, though. Things become tangential from there until the reader meets back up with The Hatter. There was a clear effort to include an openness and respect to the LGBTQ+ community and nontraditional relationships. However, the effort yielded relationships that did not develop naturally except for the relationship between Alice and Rorie. There are also several occasions in the story where the tone changes rapidly, like when phrases like “tossup” get interlaced into the overall political schemes of Wonderland. It’s something that could be explained by what Wonderland is in this book, but it’s no less jarring for the reader to move in and out of old-world and new-world voice. The reader spends most of the book learning about Alice and Rorie’s story. The book is mostly about them but through the lens of Jessica whose experience in Wonderland is obscured by the relative madness that permeates the realm. Overall, the book was interesting enough. The way Honeycutt introduces older, well loved characters in this reinvention of Wonderland is very palatable, and there is a lot of genius creativity in the book. In the end, it fell flat for me, though. It’s gotten a solid three stars from me because Lewis Carroll would have gotten a kick out of the irony and darkened turmoil of the whole book, but it left a lot to yearn for as a reader. This novel was a decent debut.