In the second installment of Oakes’ (Elly in Love, 2014, etc.) Queen of Hearts series, Dinah unravels more secrets of her past.
After the events of the first volume, also set in the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dinah is no longer the pampered Princess of Hearts. Instead, she’s accused of a horrible crime and is now a fugitive. Her father, the King of Hearts, framed her for a brutal murder so that he could avoid handing over the throne to her, as Wonderland law demands. Dinah has fled to the Twisted Wood with only Morte, the monstrous Hornhoov who was her father’s chosen steed, for companionship. Dinah travels deeper into the woods to stay ahead of her father’s search parties, but she runs low on supplies and has no idea how to find more. Then she meets Sir Gorrann, one of the Spades who’s supposed to serve the King. He has reasons of his own to hate the King, however, so he helps Dinah by training her in swordsmanship and keeping her away from the King’s men. But the only place out of the King’s reach has its own perils, and Dinah finds that she needs all her wits to survive. As the story progresses, Dinah digs deep and discovers new strengths, but in the process, she becomes a harder, more ruthless person. Overall, the book works well within the framework laid out in the first volume. Oakes skillfully portrays Dinah’s inevitable toughening as she realizes that sometimes there are no right choices and the only options are bad and worse. The author’s unveiling of a certain aspect of Dinah’s past seems a bit forced, but it’s definitely unexpected. This installment engagingly shows Dinah shifting further toward becoming the infamous Queen of Hearts, but it also portrays her as a likable human being—at least, so far. Fans of the first volume will devour this book and eagerly await the finale.
The story of Dinah’s transition from girl to woman continues and reveals new, remarkable aspects of her character.