Mad About the Hatter - Dakota Chase
Retellings are what it’s all about in the world of YA books at the moment. Mad About the Hatter was my second one in a short period of time and I have to say I started it with a lot of mixed feelings…

I adored the cover (it’s partly why I chose to read it in the first place) and I was psyched about getting to read my very first accepted book request on Netgalley. On the other hand, I had just finished a retelling which I didn’t really enjoy and I was still reading a book which was alright, but I already knew exactly what was going to happen in it, because I just finished watching the series. So what happened during the first few chapters of Mad About the Hatter was that I got fairly bored with it quickly. I felt this was yet another book of which I already knew the storyline all too well.

However, I knew there was going to be a gay romance aspect in there so I told myself to stay put and wait for it to get more interesting. Even though the gay stuff wasn’t as steamy as I was expecting, it turned out it was a good thing that I did!

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed by the title, this story is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It starts off with introducing an old aquaintance: the Mad Hatter. He’s been imprisoned by the Red Queen (the Queen of Hearts) who still very much enjoys chopping off people’s heads. Then we meet Henry, Alice’s younger brother, who unwillingly ended up in Wonderland through the hands of his sister. When the Queen hears of this new arrival, she sends the Mad Hatter (simply called ‘Hatter’ here) after the ‘Boy Alice’ to bring him to her and most likely, chop off his head. What happens then is a long quest on finding Henry, but mostly, of bringing him to the Queen’s palace.

The journey from one magical place to the next was very enjoyable for me. It was like reading an old children’s book except for the part of two men kissing each other. I already mentioned the romance between Henry and Hatter wasn’t very steamy; far from it actually, which was a little dissapointing to me, but on the other hand, at least it wasn’t one of those storylines that really fouls up the rest of the book.

I think the writing was done well, except for a little annoyance on my part when it came to specific use of language which made me suspect that the author is middle aged. Not that there’s anything wrong with THAT, yet phrases like “Olly-olly-oxen-free!” when this story is taking place in modern times, seemed a little cheesy/out of place to me. Then again, I’m not an American, so maybe kids still use that kind of slang nowadays anyways and I’m just not aware of it.
The world building was also done well, but that’s a bit easier when that particular world, Wonderland in this case, was already built and you can put your own storyline in there.

The characters were well developed. Maybe a little cliché at times, but it didn’t interfere with me liking most of them. The Red Queen didn’t always make a lot of sense to me though. First we hear about how she’s basically already born evil, but then someone says “She wasn’t always like this”. Make up your mind!

I actually read an interesting piece on how the Queen of Hearts is often confused with the Red Queen from the sequel, ‘Through the Looking-Glass’, although the two are very different: (source: Wikipedia) “She is commonly mistaken for the Red Queen in the story’s sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, but in reality shares none of her characteristics other than being a queen. Indeed, Carroll, in his lifetime, made the distinction of the two Queens by saying:

“I pictured to myself the Queen of Hearts as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion – a blind and aimless Fury.The Red Queen I pictured as a Fury, but of another type; her passion must be cold and calm – she must be formal and strict, yet not unkindly; pedantic to the 10th degree, the concentrated essence of all governesses!”
—Lewis Carroll, in “Alice on the Stage”

The 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland perpetuates the long-standing confusion between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. In the film, the Queen of Hearts delivers several of the Red Queen’s statements, the most notable being based on her “all the ways about here belong to me”. Both characters say this to suggest importance and possible arrogance, but in the Red Queen’s case it has a double meaning since her status as a Chess-queen means that she can move in any direction she desires.”

I guess the same thing can be said about the Red Queen in Mad about the Hatter. She is everything BUT calm, formal and strict, yet not unkindly. Hell hath no fury like this one!

I give this book 3.5 stars based on my level of enjoyment (rounded up to 4 stars on Netgalley because I can definitely (instead of the three-starred ‘maybe’) recommend this book to people who are into children’s books with a bit of a twist).

I received a free review copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.