Tag Archives: Fantasy

January Book Review: “After Alice”

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

If you like “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, and Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, then you should read…

“After Alice” by Gregory Maguire

This novel continues in the same vein as Maguire’s more well-known novel “Wicked”  — famous for the Broadway adaptation by the same name — in challenging preconceived notions of famous stories and looking at those stories from another perspective. In “After Alice,” this perspective is shown through the eyes of Ada Boyce, a young girl whose best friend is Alice. Alice is described as “unlovely” and is forced to wear an iron corset in order to maintain perfect lady-like posture. One day Alice’s father has a meeting with Mr. Dickens and a strange man named Mr. Winters, who is accompanied by a freed slave named Siam. In an attempt to find Alice, Ada and Siam find themselves tumbling down the same rabbit hole as Alice did; they too are exposed to the curiousness of Wonderland. All three children grow due to their experiences in Wonderland, but in rather different ways. Most know of Alice’s story, which focuses on childhood, but Ada goes through a very different transformation as a result of her time in Wonderland.

Maguire succeeds in creating a wonderful contrast to Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” While Carroll’s books focus on the wonder of childhood, Maguire’s is much more of a coming-of-age novel — of growing into oneself and one’s surroundings. By the end of the story, Ada grew from her experience in Wonderland and benefited from the disassociation from traditional Victorian British society that the trip brought. Ada sprouted her wings thanks to Wonderland; by contrast, the same world gave Alice just another way to stay in her cocoon.

November Book Review: “Seraphina”

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

If you like the “Eragon” series by Christopher Paolini and “The Naming” by Alison Croggon, then you should read Rachel Hartman’s “Seraphina,” a young adult fantasy including magic, dragons – and autism.

Despite having made it onto the New York Times Best Seller list a few times, this book is not very well-known (which is truly a tragedy). For any fan of dragons, this is a must-read novel. However, Hartman also draws on the real world, specifically on the autism spectrum. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the fact that the dragons have characteristics similar to those of humans who fall on the autism spectrum: they work logically and are extremely bright in whichever field they choose (which, in this book, is most frequently music), yet they struggle with understanding  emotions. This has proven to be a very controversial topic among readers, some of whom view it as “an unflattering caricature” of those on the autism spectrum. Personally, I found this to be a wonderful way to include learning differences – a topic often left untouched – in fantasy literature. While the characteristics of the dragons cannot perfectly depict everyone’s experiences with autism, the autism spectrum is a wide one, encompassing diverse personalities and individuals.

In this novel, the protagonist, Seraphina, is a uniquely gifted musician who is drawn into the investigation of the murder of a member of the royal family of Goredd. The investigation shows the dangers that lie beneath the surface of the seeming peace between the humans and the dragons that hide in human form amongst them. Throughout the book, Seraphina must work hard to protect a secret that she keeps close to her chest while dealing with the strange visions that plague her sleep.