“Everything I’ve ever known is a lie.” –The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella
Hello Goodie Two Shoes!
I won this beautiful book in a giveaway last year. It was quite a long time ago, and it took me a long time to get to it.
Because this is an Alice in Wonderland retelling, I was expecting it to be like my absolute favorite book of all time, Heartless (affiliate link).
It was not.
What we’ve learned from this is I am terrible at going into books with the proper expectations. It’s never what I think it is, and then afterwards, I realize: that makes sense, and what I was thinking before didn’t.
Maybe I’ll just stop with the expectations altogether. I think that could be interesting.
This book is actually more like Heartless meshed with the Lunar Chronicles, one of my favorite series by the same author.
The Wonderland Trials is a dystopian retelling!
Alice is a 16 year old girl living in dystopian England. She is obsessed with Wonderland and she would love to go. The only problem is, she’s not a Wonder.
This book started off really well.
I was so excited for Alice to take control of her life and find a way to get into Wonderland, but that’s not what happened.
The first act dragged, and Alice was a reluctant hero for most of the book, making a complete 180 turn from the girl who was “obsessed” with Wonderland at the very beginning.
Looking back on this book, I think that Alice and her sister’s characters were not the most consistent, and that really led to the story ending up kind of wonky.
And then there were two romance beats that happened too close to each other. We’ll talk about that more later.
Other than that, this was a very good book.
Yes. Very much so. One kiss, I think that was it.
Fantasy violence. Yeah.
After I knew what this book was, I was really excited for it.
This book was set up really well. I liked the world. I liked the MC…
I didn’t like the MC, then Act 1 started to drag, the relationship thing with her sister was weird, getting into Wonderland was weird, there was another thing that was set up felt kind of forced, and there was a kiss scene that didn’t need to be there.
Let’s break this down.
Okay, so we’re introduced to Alice and she’s obsessed with Wonderland.
Which is awesome. It sounds cool. I’m obsessed with it too.
And, supposedly, she can’t get there because she’s not a Wonder.
Great, she’s got to find a way to live her dream. I am onboard with this story.
But then we find out she’s sort of connected to it in a way already. Like she knows some Wonders, she plays cards with Wonders at this underground casino thing.
Technically, she could have gotten into Wonderland on her own probably, and escaped the normal world and her sister.
I was waiting for that to happen. I saw it mapped out in my head.
It was going to be great.
Obviously that didn’t happen.
I started to not like Alice, she became a reluctant hero.
That made the first act drag, because her character didn’t work with the story anymore.
Then the thing with her sister. First she hates her sister, and then she loves her, and there’s a weird transition.
It felt like the sister’s character was kind of forced into the second part of the story.
I can’t explain more about this without spoiling, so I’m gonna zip it.
Getting into Wonderland
This was strange. It was hard to read, because Alice claimed that she wanted this so bad, but when push came to shove, you find out that she didn’t. She did not want it.
And this was kind of the first part, the set up for this “redemption plot”.
I could tell that there was a “biblical” connection from a mile away. The author sort of connected it with the game of chess and the story she was writing, but it did feel a little forced.
It’s kind of like an Aslan, Chronicles of Narnia thing, which is fine, and I think that’s really cool, but I also think if you’re going to do that, it can’t be snuck in as an afterthought. It’s got to be more plotted and more foundational to the story.
I mean, it’s Wonderland. C. S. Lewis created his own world and added in the redemption and biblical elements. This is not that. This is a retelling.
And maybe it works, maybe she connects everything. There’s still a whole second book that I intend to read when it comes out.
I sort of liked this. I like the slow burn.
But then Alice gets mad at Chess while she was “trying to get into Wonderland”, but we already established that she wasn’t trying very hard. They get into an argument. He leaves.
She get’s into Wonderland, and is so appalled when he pretended not to know her. But she was already mad at him! Like girl, make up your mind.
So then she’s mad at him. Again. Still? I don’t know, she’s confusing.
And then later, she decides she likes him again because, again, he was a fine person, and then they kiss, which kind of comes out of nowhere (I’ma talk about that in a sec too), and then they immediately “break up”.
Like slow burn, two beats right after each other, it messed up the romance pacing.
Christian Authors and Romance
I want to address this quickly because it was something I noticed in this book and in Romanov and that is “forced kisses”.
Bear with me.
So Christian authors want to keep their books clean. That’s great.
But they also want to have a kiss scene because they want to make the readers happy, they want to follow all the romance beats, kiss scenes are fun to write. Right? Wrong.
At least for the second part.
Yes, there is “supposed” to be a first kiss scene. It’s one of the romance beats.
But if your romance before hand is so gentle, so minuscule, and so slow burn (because these are teenagers we’re writing about), the “big scene” doesn’t necessarily have to be a kiss.
If it’s set up so slowly before that, the kiss might be too big a gesture.
You’re telling me they’ve never even touched before, and the first thing that they’re touching is lips?
A hand hold, a hug, a kiss on the cheek or the forehead might just be enough if you’ve been making this book really clean.
So if you’re writing a clean romance book, fantasy or not, I’d just keep that in mind.
I know this is a book review, but those are my thoughts. : )
I Did Like This Book
It sounds like I didn’t, I know. I just don’t think it worked and I’m not going to reread this book, but I do plan on finishing out the series.
I really loved the world and I liked Chess so even though I’m not a big fan of Alice, I am going to see how her story concludes.
Thank You for Reading!
I hope you enjoyed my rant, lol.
Stay fun! I’ll see you in the next one.