Synopsis: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Rumours of a Jabberwock snatching and injuring people precede attacks occurring near Catherine. Characters are injured (ie. an ankle snaps), carried away and fight back (ie. pecks at the monster’s eyes). A turtle undergoes a painful transformation into a Mock Turtle, and recipes are found for how to cook one. A battle is fought with an axe (someone is beheaded). The queen’s heart is cut out (and shown to be broken in half) in exchange for a fugitive, whom she calls to be beheaded.
There’s an illustration of someone beheaded, talk of the war in Chess and soldiers dying, a character who used to be an executioner, and a story is told of a hatter going mad and committing suicide.
Catherine is courted by the King (showered with romantic gifts and poetry). She seeks romance, love, ‘passion’ and dreams of the Joker kissing her. They flirt, sneak out to a tea party and kiss. She accepts one proposal but runs away with another.
Hands are held, hair is brushed back, a too tight corset is cut, balls are held with dances and characters flirt harmlessly. Someone remarks about a character ‘she’s only a lady as far as her shift.’ (Untrue statement). Two secondary characters fall in love and have a wedding.
When implied that Catherine could have both, she refuses, stating that she’ll be ‘an honest wife.’
Characters drink wine. A magical liquid heals Catherine, and there’s a shrinking elixir. Caterpillar smokes.
Catherine sneaks around behind her mother’s back- both to meet Jest, and to establish her bakery.
‘Bloody’ is as bad as it gets.
Overall feel: It’s a story set in Wonderland…. you expect the absurd. But this is not a book that just delves into the silly; it’s a book with a darker edge, a girl who seeks her own destiny, and the transformation of a bloodthirsty queen. With riddles, a mystery and a love story that begs to have a happy ending, you discover the meaning behind the Queen of Hearts’ favourite phrase.
To those who can tolerate a weirder side of the violence spectrum, the absurd angle of reality, and the innocent (or is it?) longings of a young heart, this will be an enjoyable (or heartbreaking?) read.