Saturday, April 23, 2016

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Description:

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 3rd 2016 by HarperTeen

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.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

I am a lover of retellings. I delight every copy of retellings that I could get my hands on. Sometimes retellings are awkward affairs but sometimes, they are amazing masterpieces. Queen of Hearts was one of the latter. Colleen Oakes reimagined Alice in Wonderland and capitalized on its vivid color, whimsy and madness. First of all, the story world was the perfect platform for the story, featuring eerie and alarmingly terrifying trees, a sea of flowers that changes color with the breath of wind and pink snow. Second of all, the characters were greatly reimagined, retaining the core of their characteristics but bearing new personalities. The vibe of Alice in Wonderland was present in Queen of Hearts: Alice in Wonderland has always made me feel like I was stuck in a foreign planet and something bad and interesting was about to happen; this was palpable in the novel. Having said all that, I was quite happy with how Oakes envisioned and made this retelling.

Dinah was a stronger and weaker "Alice" at the same time. She was solid, plowing through everything that life threw at her. She was dark like her mother and fierce like her father. Her looks made her seem exotic and I liked that about her. Based on what I read in the book, she didn't have the natural charisma that usually went with the royal bloodline. She went to her lessons, the functions and avoided her almost-always-fuming father who didn't give her the love and attention that she craved. Dinah simply hoped to go with the flow and wait for the moment when she would be queen and to have her longtime friend, Wardley, as her husband. I found myself hurting for her. It was hard to read about her horrible relationship with her father, the King of Hearts. It was not just and it made me think of how blessed I was to have parents who cared. Although the uncaring parent was a typical element in most fantasy stories, the blow was still effective.

Dinah dipped her toes into politics and social posturing. Since she was a child, she has been exposed to the King's temper and distance. Dinah knew where she stood, what she could possibly do and the little strings she could pull to make things happen. I liked scheming girls and that was exactly what Dinah was. The only fault that she had was that although she planned and schemed, she didn't have the sharpness of mind that was needed with plotting. She lacked in foresight and finesse. This led to particularly difficult times for her.

Wardley was the handsome and loyal best friend. He was a protege of some sort, being trained by the Knave of Hearts to be the next Knave aka Commander/General. I adored how genuine he seemed. Around Dinah, he seemed to have his guard down, never hesitating to be familiar with her and to show her his true self: how his stomach was a bottomless pit and how he always seemed to find something to laugh about to make matters light. I saw him as the guy who shed light and wisdom on Dinah's mind. He gave the practical side, the complete truth, to Dinah's opinion and thoughts.

The core characters of Alice in Wonderland manifested themselves in the book, donning new personalities. The Mad Hatter was Dinah's younger brother. He was born mentally impaired and had a passion for fashion. He made exquisite hats that was all the rage. The White Rabbit was Dinah's tutor and father figure, sweet, kind and always mindful of the time. Cheshire took a turn for the worse, transforming into a cunning and dangerous man. He was the adviser to the King of Hearts. I found him to be the hardest to dissect and understand. Just like all Cheshire-type characters, he was potentially good and bad, depending on his motive and the situation. I am looking forward to his appearance in the sequel. There were also new characters such as the King of Hearts and Vittoire, the illegitimate stepsister. Both were of note and fascinating. Though I would have liked more time with them and more exposure and interaction between the members of the royal family, in order to further observe and understand the family dynamics and personalities.

Queen of Hearts was a promising retelling that delivers Alice in Wonderland coated in a unique flavor. The downsides of the book for me were the following: (1) The book was too short. I think the explanation and detail that I was waiting for would have been given if the book was extended more; (2) Plot and connection. I was looking for more action/events towards the end. I felt like the strings, that would eventually be tied together in the form of an open revelation/direct confrontation, were left dangling. Though do not let these stop you from trying the book itself. It might just be me. There is still a sequel, so I am hoping to see these things revealed there. The ups were interesting characters, beautifully built story world, the fluid storytelling and the exotic vibe of the book itself. I recommend this to fantasy readers and readers who like retellings.


3.5 Cupids = True book love.
Slightly flawed but I liked it!


  1. You know what this reminds me off? Marissa Meyer's book Heartless. Except this has a prettier cover >_< I'm so glad that you liked it and even looking past all the flaws, it looks like an interesting read nonetheless.

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    1. Hi Alex! Thanks for dropping by. I'm a fan of Marissa Meyer! Though I'm still in the process of reading her series and haven't actually read Heartless yet. Looking forward to it!

  2. I really like the sound of this book. But those downsides... maybe I'll just wait for the sequel and see how this will go :)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

    1. Hi Czai! That's actually a smart move. Check the sequel and the feedback on it before trying this series. :)

  3. I've got this one in my TBR pile and look forward to seeing Oakes' take on Wonderland. I like that Dinah is a schemer, but it's too bad she lacks foresight. I love it when my fantasy characters are one step ahead of everyone.

    1. I'm sad about Dinah, too. Though there is still room for growth in the next installments. I hope you would give it a try. :)

  4. Just picked up the Temple Wars book! Book 1 is fascinating and had me engaged from page one! You guys should check it out! Temple Wars