Alice by Christina Henry

There is a place called Old City, where in a warren of crumbling decrepit buildings there stands a hospital. Behind its cinder block walls the screams of the poor souls inside echo from every room. In one room is a young woman; her once blonde hair now dirty and tangled. She doesn’t remember why she is in this place. She only remembers a tea party long long ago; of cake and tea and blood. The only other thing she remembers is her name – Alice.

When a fire in the hospital offers a chance at freedom, Alice takes it. Only she is not alone in escaping. Another patient named Hatcher joins her, along with something else. Something dark, powerful, and extremely dangerous.

To find the truth and defeat the monster, Alice and Hatcher shall have to travel through Old City. Find friend and foe as they make their way to the heart of the city and the Rabbit; who patiently waits for his Alice.

Based loosely and inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll, Alice is a dark retelling of the Alice in Wonderland books. Here, Alice is all grown up, she is a young woman of 26 and has spent the last 10 years of her life in an asylum. She is given a chance to relearn what happened to her when a fire destroys the hospital and she makes her escape.

Alice is not an easy book to read and a good number of readers might find it triggering. Those who find mentions of sexual assault, rape, and other such mentions of sexual violence would do good to avoid this book. Violence towards women is everywhere in Old City and is a common thread throughout the book. It is both blatant and implied, active and imagined. Blood and gore is also a common thread and at times it is quite disturbing.

Set all that aside and you have a fairly good book. Watching Alice grow and become stronger; both physically and mentally; was very satisfying. My only complaint was that the supposed climactic ending was quite anti-climactic. The build up through the book toward this supposed final meeting between Alice and the Rabbit was a bit of a let down when it actually occurred. I think it could have been handled a little better.

I have recently learned that a second book, The Red Queen, will be released soon. I do not know if I will be reviewing that one as I had a difficult time with this book. The book itself wasn’t bad, it was the content it dealt with that was uncomfortable. As I said earlier, those who are uneasy with sexual violence would do good to steer clear of this book. However if you’re looking for a deeply disturbing dark fantasy, you might want to give this one a try.

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