Falling for Wonderland in The Looking Glass Wars

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The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor




Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Author: Frank Beddor
Published: August 2007 [1st pub. Sep. 2004]
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 358 {paperback}

Original review on Goodreads

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Fantabulous Wonderland adventures fit only for the mad

I absolutely adore Alice in Wonderland retellings and I don’t know why. The books are by no means amongst my all-time favourites and the Disney adaptation is my least favourite of the all the Disneys. I think what makes the retellings of the story so exciting is the extreme level of imagination required to put together such a story. There’s so much fun to be had by twisting Carroll’s story in every way possible and perhaps it is the wickedly fun adventures that are born from this that make me love it so much. Beddor’s work here is a fantastic embodiment of how to do a retelling right.

Card soldiers and magical pools

The Looking Glass Wars is the story of Alyss (=Alice) who is a young girl and princess in Wonderland where imagination acts as magic and she can create and alter things just by thinking it. She’s highly talented and a little madam. At the beginning of the book she is somewhat out of control and incredibly self-centred, but then, her evil Aunt Red wants to take back the ‘Queendom’ that is rightfully hers (which, technically it is, but when she was a kid the crown sort of skipped her because she’s psychotic and sadistic . . . ). After her home is attacked, Alyss finds herself in the human world with her guardian, Hatter Madigan, but they’re quickly separated and Alyss has to fend for herself. No-one believes her stories about Wonderland and she doesn’t know how to get back, no matter how many puddles she jumps in. And so her struggles begin.

What I loved

There are, obviously, a multitude of things that I loved about this book, but I’ll try and not turn this into an essay.

Firstly, I thought the way the looking glasses worked was awesome. People can travel via looking glasses (otherwise known as mirrors) to quickly get to destinations. It does require a bit of skill to do so, lest one gets lost and dies (or something). It was such a fitting mode of transport because it only made 80% sense, leaving 20% of oh-lets-just-go-with-it.

The other more drastic ‘transportation’ mode was the Pool of Tears. I LOVED THIS. Ahem. This was almost like a river and if you jumped into it you were sucked under and then suddenly spat out into the human dimension. Apparently, no-one has ever returned back to Wonderland after doing so. Oh, oh, and it’s called the Pool of Tears because it’s supposedly made up of people’s tears. Cool, huh?

There were numerous other clever twists on aspects of the original story. The caterpillars, for one, were somewhat similar but had a less crazy and frustratingly whimsical demeanour to them. They were much more mysterious and just the right amount of creepy. They act as a sort of oracle in this world.

The card soldiers were another cool contraption, so to speak. They’re actually what you can see on the cover of the book. I’ll give you a minute here to all scroll back up and go ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ at the cover now . . . . . . Done? Good. Also, at the beginning of the book Beddor has ever so kindly given us a wonderful visual demonstration as to how they assemble from harmless cards to full scale, insect-looking, arms-wielding, scary-looking knights. I approve.

Speaking of the cover, isn’t it great?! I love how sophisticated it looks with its dark tones and golden highlights. I’ll be hugely disappointed if book 2 isn’t as nice in person. Because YES, there is a book 2! *triumphant trumpets sound in the distance*.

Allow me to introduce you to . . .


Alyss is the main character of the book (duh) but she’s not the only perspective that it’s told through. She’s a pretty interesting character throughout and makes a couple of quite dramatic character arcs.

In the beginning she’s a frustrating little child who is incapable of understanding how to actually be nice to people and how to behave. She mellows out somewhat upon getting stuck in the human world as everything is no longer about her. I won’t go into the next two changes as I’d end up spoiling things, but she does change a lot throughout her journey, which does make sense for the most part. It’s towards the end when I realised how transformed she was that I questioned whether that was realistic (she says, talking about a book set in Wonderland). Overall, she becomes quite a likeable character and good candidate to fill Alice’s shoes . . . or just borrow them for a spin.


I’m still not sure if Dodge actually has a classical character equivalent but he was an intriguing character nonetheless. I’d believed that he was going to be the main love interest for the book as he’s Alyss’ best friend, but he too changes a lot in the book and I’m actually not sure how I feel about him at the end. I think there’ll be some big things regarding him in book two.

Hatter Madigan

I just want to take a second to appreciate how great this character’s name is. Well done, Beddor, excellent form. Hatter was definitely my favourite character in this book and I loved how different he was from the Mad Hatter. He’s incredibly serious and a sort of military genius (seriously, those fighting scenes, *claps*). There’s clearly a secret and more sensitive past to him that we’re yet to discover. He’s so dedicated to keeping Alyss safe which was adorable. He’s also got some seriously cool moves with his hat. I can’t wait to read more of him in the next book!


Red is our good ol’ baddie. She’s pure evil and not afraid to kill pretty much any character who crosses her. She’s a great villain and a perfect level of crazy. I can’t wait for Alyss to win back her throne, as I hope she will, because Red is completely ruining Wonderland. She’s also on the cover of the next book so clearly we can expect big things.


Overall, the book is an awesome work of fantasy with a lot of tragedy worked within its pages. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a very quick and highly addictive read. It was certainly crazy enough to live up to its title as a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. So much about this book felt intensely magical and unique and I loved it all! I cannot wait to read the next book! If you’re looking for something original with a great amount of imagination put into its creation then this is 100% for you – it’s thoroughly enjoyable to read and I highly recommend that you do!

If you enjoyed this book then I HIGHLY recommend you check out the Splintered trilogy by A. G. Howard, it’s great!

View all my reviews

Is there anything in books that makes it an insta-buy for you?

Let me know in the comments below!

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~ 

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3 thoughts on “Falling for Wonderland in The Looking Glass Wars

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