Looking Glass (The Chronicles of Alice) by Christina Henry
(Left: US edition; Right: UK edition)
Publication Date: April 21st, 2020
Paperback. 304 pages
About Looking Glass:
"In four new novellas, Christina Henry returns to the universe she created for Alice and Red Queen, where magic runs more freely than anyone suspects, but so do secrets and blood.
In the New City lives a girl called Elizabeth, a girl who has a secret: she can do magic. But someone knows Elizabeth's secret--someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly made by a girl called Alice.
Girl in Amber
Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm they stumble into a castle that seems empty and abandoned...at least until nightfall.
When I First Came to Town
Hatcher wasn't always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he's going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive.
The Mercy Seat
Alice has a secret--a secret that not even Hatcher knows yet, but pretty soon she won't be able to keep it from him."
It's taken me a little longer than I'd hoped, but I finally got around to reading Christina Henry's most recent addition The Chronicles of Alice, a set of four novellas centered around some of our favorite characters (and a slightly newer one). The Chronicles of Alice is one of my favorite series (duologies?)--it's almost hard for me to describe just how much I love Alice, Hatcher, Henry's prose, and the stunning, brutal world created by Henry. I was thrilled to have some new stories set in this world to dive into, and I was not disappointed in the slightest by these stories.
Up first is Lovely Creature, which follows Alice's sister, Elizabeth, who lives back in the New City with her and Alice's parents. In this story, Elizabeth finds that many unexplained references to an "Alice" and her similarly rather unexplained magical abilities have a stronger connection than she could have realized. This story wasn't one I expected from this collection, but it's one that I'm really glad Henry decided to write and include. I loved getting a chance to look back at life after Alice her family and to see how life continued on for her family. I also enjoyed watching Elizabeth make her own discoveries and, as a reader, uncovering some of the connections that reach back to both Alice and Red Queen.
Next is Girl in Amber, which features our favorite couple Alice and Hatcher--though after the introduction, it is mainly Alice we follow. I have mixed feelings about this story. I mostly loved it and the mysterious, unpredictable house that Alice entered into, but at the same time I found the plot slightly random and I didn't fully understand why certain elements were chosen to be a part of the story. There almost feels like a subtle sci-fi slant that I found both interesting and perplexing. Nonetheless, I loved the theme of this story and how Henry decided to execute. The atmosphere was also excellently crafted and I had a hard time pulling myself away from this particular story.
Third is When I First Came to Town, which is essentially a short prequel of sorts all about Hatcher's backstory as a fighter before he was captured and met Alice. This story was really a delight to get a chance to read, as Hatcher is easily one of my favorite characters in fiction and I had been curious to get a glimpse of what his background was really like. It was heartbreaking to read about some of the things he saw and experienced and I think it also really helped to convey to the reader how his personality developed in the way that it did. Some seems natural, and some seems created.
Lastly is The Mercy Seat, which is another that I found ever-so-slightly odd, but overall enjoyable and that was a truly beautiful way to end this story. There are two main threads in this story, one of which focuses on the present in which Hatcher and Alice are on their way to find a new place to live, and the second that focuses on a rather momentous life change for the pair. The former story had some classic airs of mystery around an unknown town and its unpredictable inhabitants that gave them familiar vibes similar to some scenes in Red Queen, but this time there were some rather different things going on that Alice and Hatcher found themselves embroiled in. The other thread is one that I won't mention, but that I will say brings me a lot of joy and curiosity to see how it will all play out.
I think one of the things that I have loved about The Chronicles of Alice and that these stories captured particularly well is how much growth both Alice and Hatcher have exhibited. Alice has grown from someone who is mostly unsure of herself and the world around her to someone who, although will always have her struggles of that nature, has begun to see herself as someone capable and worthwhile, and I absolutely loved that. Hatcher, similarly, has discovered that many of the things he sees as weaknesses or negative are in fact strengths in their own ways and things that aren't necessarily "bad" at all, they are simply who he is, and there's nothing wrong with that. Alice has similar discoveries about herself that I loved.
Overall, I've given Looking Glass a total of five stars. I really loved this return to the world of Alice created by Christina Henry, as not only was it a joy to revisit these characters, but it was also a worthwhile extra look into the character development, lives, world-building, and magic of The Chronicles of Alice. I would love to see more in this world, but I assume this is the final installment from Christina Henry (still, I'll keep my hopes awake!). If you haven't read any of these books yet, I'd highly recommend them! If you have, but haven't read Looking Glass yet, I would encourage you to, as I do think that they offer some very worthwhile extras for this world.