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Something Rotten in the State of Wonderland

More hand-wringing ensues as Amanda R. continues to be Quite Concerned for Princess Dinah and her mental state. 

Something Rotten in the State of Wonderland

BOOK REPORT for The Wonder (Queen of Hearts Saga, Book 2) by Colleen Oakes

Cover Story: Lost in the Woods
BFF Charm: Caution
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Beware the Creeping Dark
Bonus Factors: Wonderland, Courtly Intrigue, Loyal Pet, Keith Mars Award for Awesome Dadhood
Relationship Status: Ready For Our Third Date

Cover Story: Lost in the Woods

This cover ties in nicely with this series’ previous installation, The Crown. Dinah is no longer living within the palace walls and is running for her life in the dangerous Twisted Wood of Wonderland. I really liked the subtle swap-out of the cards too, as the Hearts were more prominent in the story before, and a certain Spade enters Dinah’s life in The Wonder.

The Deal:

So if you haven’t read the first volume in The Queen of Hearts Trilogy, STOP reading this review immediately; instead head on over to THIS review and get yourself a copy of The Crown first!

(Warning - spoilers for The Crown (obvs) ahead!)

When last we left Dinah, her power-mad, insane father The King had murdered her brother The Mad Hatter, slaughtered his servants and convinced the Palace that Dinah was responsible. He used this lie to usurp Dinah’s rightful place as heir and instead put her “half-sister” Vittiore on the Wonderland throne instead. Dinah manages to escape the palace by the skin of her teeth with some help from Wardley and a mysterious benefactor.

Now Dinah is on the back of a Hornhoov (a giant, carniverous horse belonging to the King), racing across Wonderland and diving into the Twisted Wood. The King and his Hearts are on her tail, determined to bring her down. Luckily she’s been followed by a rogue Spade, Sir Gorrann, who has his own reasons for wanting Dinah on the throne. He aids her escape from the King’s trackers and they manage to make their way to the land of the Yurkei. Dinah finds no love here, as her warmongering father is responsible for the death of hundreds of their people. Thankfully the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” remains ever true and Dinah starts to gather the army she needs to take down the evil King.

BFF Charm: Caution

It took me a while to warm up to Dinah in the first book, but I came to the sequel solidly on her team. This girl really needs some friends, having left the few she has behind when she escaped the palace. I have a feeling she is REALLY going to need a Solid Voice of Reason in her ear for the next book because girlfriend has to learn how to channel her rage in a SANE AND PRODUCTIVE MANNER. So while I would totally remain her friend I would also be a bit wary, perhaps keep her at arm’s length and have my best diplomacy skills at the READY.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

I was hoping for a bit more swoon (perhaps with Ki-ershan, the kindhearted Yurkei guard who looks after Dinah) but honestly, Dinah just has bigger fish to fry right now. She has an ARMY to amass and a RAGING CRAPHEAP of a father to overthrow! And she’s still hung up on Wardley. My intuition with that relationship is “DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!”.

Talky Talk: Beware the Creeping Dark

The Black Towers brought the creeps in the first volume, but here we have the Twisted Wood, full of beautiful beckoning deadly flowers, trees that can listen, mythical beasts, and of course, curious mushrooms. We sense that Dinah is never really being told the full story from anyone and that everyone has their own end game. The pacing remains swift throughout and Oakes paints the story with wonderful, atmospheric detail, giving each setting its own distinct character while maintaining the ever-growing feeling of Something’s Not Quite Right.

Bonus Factor: Wonderland

Familiar characters are again re-imagined in ways cleverly suited to the story. I was waiting for The Caterpillar to show up and he does NOT disappoint. Those of you who have been wondering why Princess Dinah was given the name of Alice’s cat will finally be given your lightbulb moment too!

Bonus Factor: Courtly Intrigue

Everyone has their own agenda here. Revenge, lands returned, ambition. I just hope that Dinah doesn’t get hurt in the process. There’s also quite a big reveal but I shan’t spoil it! Let’s just say that it satisfies and terrifies. What more could you want?

Bonus Factor: Loyal Pet

Ok, so Morte is NO ONE’S pet. I feel nervous just typing that. He’s a freakishly large gargantuan horse with bone spikes sticking out of his hooves. He often eats his kill and happily traipses around with blood dripping from his maw, but for some reason, he becomes a bit of an ally to Dinah. Turns out he didn’t much care for her father either.

Bonus Factor:  Keith Mars Award for Awesome Dadhood

Sir Gorrann is probably the one person that Dinah can really and truly trust. He starts off finding her entitled and annoying (which she can be) but eventually warms to her and sympathizes with her plight. He’s really the Gruff Lovable Stepdad of our dreams.

Casting Call:

Mae Whitman as Dinah

Kit Harrington as Wardley

Sean Bean as Sir Gorrann

Jay Tavare as Mundoo, Leader of the Yurkei

Tom Hiddleston as Cheshire (is perfect casting, yes, you're welcome.)

Relationship Status: Ready For Our Third Date

SO happy that this book doesn’t suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. They’re short enough (each clocking in at around 225 pages) that they really weren’t likely to, but I’m still happy! Oakes brought in a bunch of great new characters and took us to two very different lands. Dinah starts to really come into her own, both mentally and physically. The book ends on the eve of war with a distraught Dinah, terrified at the thought of taking on her father and his army and I’m excited/terrified/worried/ready for the finale!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Spark Press. I received neither mai tais nor money for this review (dammit!). The Wonder is available now.

Amanda Reid's photo About the Author: Amanda R. is an East Coast girl living in California who will never stop missing a true autumn. She's a bookseller who specializes in kid and teen lit, the leader of FYA Oakland, and bakes a damn fine pie.