Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1)
By Colleen Oakes
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.
Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.
Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Queen of Hearts is one of those titles that I really cannot explain why I have not read it sooner. Every time I come across the beautiful cover and wonderland themed retelling, I am intrigued. This book promises everything I could want within a title. It is a retelling, it is centered upon the characters of Wonderland, and it comes in a gorgeous package. And after having read Seas (Wendy Darling Vol 2) I know that I connect well with the author’s writing. So how did this anticipated read fare for me?
After the loss of her mother, Dinah (the princess of Wonderland) currently awaits her 18th birthday where she will occupy the throne next to her father, The King of Hearts and reside over all of Wonderland. However, the King rules with fear and shows little to no love for his very own daughter. It soon comes to light that the King may have other plans, and Dinah may not only lose the throne but her own head.
This is my first encounter with a Wonderland retelling that spotlights Dinah, the future Queen of Hearts. While it took several chapters for the plot to begin truly moving, once it did, the pace was consistent and pretty steady. This was a very fast and somewhat short read for me. It is nearly impossible to dissect the story-line to great lengths without revealing key elements or spoilers. It maintained an air of originality and intrigue as I was unsure exactly where things were headed for Dinah. I was invested in learning more about this future villain of Wonderland. She has always been a favorite of mine. And we quickly discover that there is much more happening beneath the surface. She has some serious decisions to make.
“She was learning as quickly that what was right and what must happen weren’t always the same thing.”
― Colleen Oakes,
The struggles that arises between desiring her father’s love and her rightful spot on the throne as heir sheds a new light on a character that was at one time shrouded in mystery. For me the plot is full of promise. I would have appreciated a bit more depth and background to accompany Dinah’s story though. There is little to no elaboration on the relationship she had with her deceased mother, and I felt that the deep seeded hatred her father harbored would have benefited from more insight. While engrossing, over all the story felt almost too open-ended. Again though, this is a short read and there is a sequel.
The author has managed to create a set of characters that essentially contribute a large portion to the world building that occurs. She has managed to humanize the whimsical inhabitants that we have come to know and love in a way that maintains the spirit of Wonderland.
Dinah is nearing 18 and has been written accordingly. She is weak and angry at times. She is fearful, but determined. She is in love. While I would not describe her as an overly strong female protagonist, she is viable and fits appropriately into her environment. I am inclined to believe that we are to witness her growth in the next edition.
We are also introduced to Charles, Dinah’s younger brother. We soon learn he has gone mad and are introduced to the origins of the Mad Hatter. This was one of my favorite additions personally. The Mad Hatter is such a fascinating character and I was thrilled to see some back story provided. I do wish again that there would have been more depth here, but this is not his tale.
The Cheshire happens to be an adviser to the King, and Harris (Dinah’s caretaker) is soon identified as the White Rabbit. We also can establish that Dinah’s love interest is the Knave of Hearts. The guards throughout the Wonderland palace are labeled as card suits according to rank and position. The author has managed to cleverly included all familiar elements of the palace.
I would be lying if I told you that I fell in love with the world in Queen of Hearts immediately. I did not. But I did develop a deep admiration for it, and by the time I had completed the book I was sold. It was an adjustment to accept a Wonderland that was so realistic and abrasive. While there was magic present, it was nowhere near as fantastic as what Lewis Carroll originally gave life to. But as I read and found myself more engaged, I was able to understand what the author was attempting and see that she was achieving it very well. She has reconstructed Wonderland in a manner that humanizes it and invites a new experience through the use of well thought out characters and believable, yet intimidating settings. While fans will find a comforting familiarity, they will also find great value in this new and engaging atmosphere.
I am a fan of Colleen Oakes’ writing. She has the ability to add her own creative flair to retellings and compose a completely new and individualized reading experience. Her storytelling is crisp and fast paced, while remaining somewhat picturesque and easily portraying a vivid image of the events unfolding. I know now that when I pick up one of her titles, I am in for a fun and exciting read. Queen of Hearts was no exception.
Queen of Hearts is what I want and expect from a retelling. It is an exciting and adventurous story that unfolds at a steady pace. The characters are engaging and it has provided a new take on a classic tale, which is exactly what a retelling should do. While I wanted more detail in several areas, it is also easy to understand and accept that this story does not end with this first volume. The ending felt well timed, and I look forward to reading the next installment The Wonder (Queen of Hearts Saga #2). While this may not be for those seeking an action packed, high magic read, I would recommend this to fans of the author’s Wendy Darling series, Alice in Wonderland and those who enjoy learning character backstories and origins.
*I received this copy courtesy of SocialBookCo and this is my honest and unbiased review.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
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