Science fiction and fantasy
A Blade So Black
by L. L. McKinney
It's a vast contrast to Alice's life in Atlanta, where she has to contend with school, friends, and keeping contact with her mother who worries about her in a way that would seem clingy if it weren't for the mitigating circumstances. The recent death of a young local woman weighs heavily on the community and on Alice's mother, making her keen to know her daughter's whereabouts at all times. It's not the easiest environment in which to keep her calling as a monster slayer a secret.
Alice and Addison share quick banter and jokes, sounding very much like ordinary human teenagers at times. Their cover is the Looking Glass Pub run by Maddi, a potion maker who rarely makes sense. Maddi helps Addison to guard the gateway between worlds. And there are also Alice's human friends Courtney and Chester. Courtney keeps Alice's secrets, but Chester isn't privy to what's going on, even though he seems to be quite interested in her.
A Blade So Black isn't as eccentric or high concept as Alice In Wonderland, at least to begin with. It's more focused on whacking monsters and on teenage life. There are themes of dealing with grief and trying not to let down family and friends. The Alice motifs suggest a certain literary depth, but this story is still more action-oriented than anything else, especially when a chap calling himself the Black Knight and claiming to have a Vorpal Blade turns up and unleashes yet more trouble.
In the heat of battle Alice comes across initially as alert and perhaps even a bit nervous. She doesn't always brim with self-belief, even though that's one thing that gives her more power in Wonderland. However, she's on her way, which makes her a more relatable main character than if she were a perfect warrior at all times.
The story has a few twists, and the Wonderland characters don't necessarily look, sound, or act anything like their Lewis Carroll counterparts. It's quite an enjoyable and moving story with a fast pace and some non-explicit romance. However, it's not a stand-alone book, and as the first part in a series, readers will need to continue reading to find out what happens next. On the basis of the first book, I wanted to read on.
2nd February 2020
If you like this, try:Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
Alice in Wonderland travels forward in time.
Review © Ros Jackson