“Mad About The Hatter” by Dakota Chase

This was the first book I downloaded from NetGalley to read and review, marking a new era in the reviews on this blog — from now on, they might well feature books that have only just come out, or even things still to be published (but I’ll check what the rules are). So that’s exciting.

mad about the hatterWhat drew me to Mad About The Hatter was the concept: Alice had a brother, Henry, who never believed her stories about Wonderland. However, she tricks him into going there, where he meets the Mad Hatter, and they begin a journey through the dangers and beauties of Wonderland before a final show-down with the Red Queen.

The book was listed as LGBTQ+, so I assumed that would mean the Hatter and Henry would get together, and that is what happened. But while elements of this relationship were cute, on the whole, I found it a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t detect much between them except admiration of each other’s faces, which I don’t think is enough of a basis for a relationship.

But that was partly due to the main fault of the book (in my opinion{): the writing style. In places, the style was great, reflecting the style of the original Alice In Wonderland without seeming like a mere copy, particularly where speech patterns and riddles were concerned. But on the whole, the writing style just didn’t work for me. It seemed overly simplistic in the sense that it frequently stated the obvious, even when it had done a great job of ‘showing’ the emotions in the lines before. As a reader, I felt Chase didn’t trust me to make connections myself, and insisted on holding my hand through all of it.

Also, the kisses just … weren’t at all sexy? Or even romantic. Because they sounded like every generic fictional kiss, with nothing original about it. Just a bunch of cliches.

The writing therefore got in the way of my enjoyment of the book, and that was frustrating. The plot was fun, and the worldbuilding developed on Carroll’s Wonderland and created a number of places that were, to my knowledge, entirely Chase’s invention. Those I found very interesting. Moreover there were some great lines, some of them funny, and others just entertainingly phrased. I highlighted a number of them for future reference, which does show that I enjoyed some of the writing.

Finally, I had one major problem with the book, which was that I couldn’t work out what time period or country Henry was supposed to come from. Or rather, I could, but it didn’t match up to the original Alice, and this was never explained. He used terms like “high school graduation” which made him very obviously American, especially combined with other school terms like “sophomore” or the insults he used. And he also referenced pizza and at the end there were cars and other modern conveniences, so again, that made it seem modern.

But there was nothing to firmly place us in that setting from the start, which meant for the first section of the book I wasn’t sure if the Americanisms (or even the modern phrasings) were deliberate, or if they were an oversight on the part of the author. It became apparent by the time I got to the end of the book that they were deliberate, but the lack of explanation at that early stage  did really throw me off.

Despite the awesome premise and the decent plot and worldbuilding, the writing style and the underdeveloped relationships between characters mean I have to give this three stars. It was a fun read, but it isn’t a book I’ll be pressing into the prone hands of everybody I meet.

Rating: ***

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