Queen of Hearts: Volume One by Colleen Oakes

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Not every fairytale has a happy ending. This is the story of a princess who became a villain. As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
First book in a trilogy (?)
Young Adult/Retelling/Fantasy 

 2 out of 5 stars

Queen of Hearts is an Alice in Wonderland retelling that feels very distant from the original source material. Alice in Wonderland is a delightful and nonsensical read, while Queen of Hearts is incredibly dark. It's also strange to see the Queen of Hearts given back-story, because she was a ridiculous character in the original text. I love stories that flesh out villians (like Wicked did for the Wizard of Oz's villain, the Wicked Witch) but I think the Queen of Hearts is not the best villain to receive this kind of attention. Oakes did do a decent job of pulling it off though, despite my reluctance in believing that it could be done.

I believe this is meant to be the first book in a trilogy, and unfortunately I felt that this is one of those series that should have been a standalone. Queen of Hearts is around 200 pages, so it's not very long in itself, and the novel stops just when it starts getting exciting. There wasn't enough story in this installment, in my opinion, to warrant a single novel. I also felt that the writing was excessive at times, with description in particular, so a lot of those 200 or so pages felt like they had a lot of 'filler' material.

Dinah, our main character, I unfortunately didn't like. I felt that there was this massive attempt by the author to make me like her, but it didn't work. The King, Dinah's father, is also purely evil which is always boring. The King had no depth and seemed to only exist to make Dinah miserable and force readers to pity her. It felt contrived, so it didn't make me feel very bad for Dinah at all because it felt unrealistic. Dinah herself is a rather mean character, and while she becomes idealistically nicer throughout the book, I wasn't a fan of her. She felt rather villainous to begin with, so the idea that she is some innocent princess who becomes a villainous queen feels false.

The other characters borrowed from the original Alice in Wonderland include the Mad Hatter, who is Dinah's insane younger brother. The Cheshire Cat, who's actually a man, a very powerful and menacing man, who is rumored to be able to shape-shift into a cat. The White Rabbit, who serves as Dinah's tutor and mentor. I was slightly uncomfortable with the way that all of the characters seem to be in the royal family or involved in the royal affairs, and I felt like the most interesting characters got the least amount of attention in the plot.

The world-building was probably my favorite aspect of Queen of Hearts. From the ever-changing constellations in the Wonderland night sky to the menacing and enigmatic Black Towers that begin to haunt Dinah's dreams. It definitely retains the ridiculousness of the world-building from Alice in Wonderland. Snow is pink. Why? Because it's Wonderland.

Ultimately this was an interesting concept that I felt could have been executed better.

I was provided an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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