A story set in the world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as seen from a very different perspective.
Fifteen-year-old Dinah is the Princess of Hearts, the daughter and heir of the fearsome King of Hearts. But her life isn’t exactly easy: She’s awkward, plump and unattractive, and the butt of jokes from the palace courtiers and even the servants. Her mother died when she was a child, and her father ignores her except to criticize her. Dinah would give anything to win her father’s approval, and when the king unexpectedly summons her, she hopes she’ll have the chance to do so. But to her horror, the king has called an audience to announce to the court that he has an illegitimate daughter named Vittiore, whom he’s brought to the palace to live with the royal family as a duchess. Vittiore’s beauty makes her an instant favorite with the court and the king, which makes Dinah hate her all the more. Dinah swears that she’ll never accept Vittiore as her sister, but she’s the least of the princess’s problems: The king’s adviser, Cheshire, seems to be plotting something; Dinah’s brother Charles, the Mad Hatter, drifts farther from reality as he spends his every waking moment crafting his amazing hats; and Dinah’s best friend and secret love, Wardley, whom she intends to marry someday, doesn’t seem to see her as anything but a friend. The more Dinah digs into the mysteries that surround her, the more sinister secrets she uncovers. Oakes’ latest heroine is spoiled, headstrong, temperamental and prone to tantrums, yet she somehow remains an incredibly sympathetic character. Perhaps it’s Dinah’s oh-so-human nature that makes her so easy to like, despite her flaws. Just as Gregory Maguire’s depiction of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked (1995) gave her a background that changed readers’ perspectives, so Oakes’ portrait of the villain-to-be turns her into a real and even likable person while clearly foreshadowing her future as Alice’s Queen of Hearts.
A wonderfully entertaining twist on an old classic.