Looking Glass – Christina Henry

Happy book birthday to this quirky little book out today! A series of interconnected, but utterly different, novellas featuring characters from the world of Christina Henry’s Alice, a dark Alice in Wonderland retelling, Looking Glass follows that twisted fairy tale vibe…

Many thanks to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for the review copy in exchange for this honest review!

RELEASE DATE: 21/04/20

STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

SUMMARY:

  • Lovely Creature: In the New City lives a girl with a secret: Elizabeth can do magic. But someone knows her secret – someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly that was supposed to be gone forever, a butterfly that used to be called the Jabberwock…
  • Girl in Amber: Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm she stumbles into a house that only seems empty and abandoned…
  • When I First Came to Town: Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive…
  • The Mercy Seat: There is a place hidden in the mountains, where all the people hate and fear magic and Magicians. It is the Village of the Pure, and though Alice and Hatcher would do anything to avoid it, it lies directly in their path. (from Titan Books)

OPINIONS: I loved how this was a book of novellas, separate stories, but still interconnected through their characters and a slight overarching plot threading through. As my attention span has suffered massively through this pandemic, I’ve been turning to shorter fiction wherever I can, so it’s been a treat to read something that is both shorter in itself, requiring less attention span, as well as part of a larger narrative.

My favourite of the four must have been “Lovely Creature”, with its classic portal fantasy atmosphere. It is written in a way that lets the reader lose themselves completely in Christina Henry’s world, trying to solve the mystery of Elizabeth’s heritage and magic. Most out of all of them, it is reminiscent of the original Alice in Wonderland tales in its spirit if not direct content, as well as linking back to the beginning of Christina Henry’s Alice.

I also really enjoyed “When I First Came to Town”, another origin story, that of Hatcher. While this did not give off such strong Wonderland / fairy tale vibes, it still had an innate focus on character and character development, which continuous readers of this blog will recognise as something I look out for. In this, Hatcher was exceedingly well written, and as a reader I ached and longed with him.

Sadly, I did not connect as much with the remaining two stories. Focusing on the real-time characters of Alice and Hatcher after the events of the earlier two books, it felt like they relied on reader loyalty too much. As someone who had enjoyed Alice and Red Queen quite a while ago, I have forgotten much of what happened, and thus feel quite disconnected from the characters, and it seemed like there wasn’t enough effort made to move them forward, making Looking Glass hard to access for new readers.

If you are curious about this collection of novellas, here is the Goodreads link, and you can order a copy from Waterstones here, or your indie of choice!

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