Looking Glass, Christina Henry – Book Review

Hello Humans! It’s time to take a wee bit of a trip down memory lane. Cast your mind back to 2018 where everything was retellings. Because today I’m reviewing a collection of short stories in Christina Henry’s dark Alice in Wonderland Universe. Looking Glass actually came out much earlier in the year and the kind folks at Titan sent me a review copy – alas it did in fact sit in the office for six months due to the plague but I have it now and I read it!

Goodreads Summary:

In four new novellas, Christina Henry returns to the universe she created for Alice and Red Queen, where magic runs more freely than anyone suspects, but so do secrets and blood.

Lovely Creature In the New City lives a girl called Elizabeth, a girl who has a secret: she can do magic. But someone knows Elizabeth’s secret–someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly made by a girl called Alice.

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 they stumble into a castle that seems empty and abandoned…at least until nightfall.

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 Alice has a secret–a secret that not even Hatcher knows yet, but pretty soon she won’t be able to keep it from him.

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Confession time, I started this thinking I had read the other books in this series. But I am actually pretty sure I read different dark Alice in Wonderland retellings. So I’m coming from the perspective of someone who has absolutely no idea really who these characters are or what happened in the other books. Maybe that’s a helpful viewpoint for a review, maybe that’s super annoying, either way I read the book!

I definitely think these four stories give you the flavour of this universe, you get a good sense of what might have happened in the books – maybe spoiling things I wouldn’t really know what counts as a plot point – but having read other Christina Henry retellings I can say this has a lot of the same elements. Henry has never been afraid to go to very dark places and given that the first story deals with implied Paedophilia it would seem this collection is no exception. Girl in Amber feels like a great haunted house story even with no context for the rest of the books, and When I First Came to Town definitely intrigued me as to the character of the mad hatter in this universe.

Based purely on educated guesses, I would presume that this book would be a good addition for those who really loved the characters of the original books, giving you a bit more insight into their lives and their backstory as well as what happened after the books. As someone who hadn’t read them this definitely made me interested in seeing what it was all about. I can see myself reading these books at some point in the future and having a good time – despite the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Girl in Red.

Henry’s writing is captivating – another thing which maybe points me to read another one of her books, The Ghost Tree. I’ve already mentioned the creeptastic haunted house in The Girl in Amber but I thought that the way she captured the maze of a city in Lovely Creature was equally powerful.

I honestly don’t know how helpful this review is – and I can only apologise for not realising the error of my ways! I feel like I’ve gone back in time to when I just used to read any books I could find regardless of whether there were other books in a series – it’s freeing in a way but harder to write coherent reviews. Is it enough to say that I found this book engaging and it definitely prompted me to read further – but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t suggest anyone do what I did – go and read the other books first?

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Looking Glass is out now!

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What say you? Have you read the original books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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