Review: Curiouser and Curiouser

Curiouser and Curiouser (Steampunk Fairy Tales: Alice in Wonderland, #1)Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

An enjoyable steampunk romp with classic callbacks to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In this retelling, Alice is a guttersnipe who’s looking to escape the life of a thief, but circumstances and old connections pull her back in. Most of the Lewis Carroll references come in the form of underworld nicknames for the people in Alice’s life. She herself is the Bandersnatch, and she works with her partner, the Caterpillar, as they try to outmaneuver the Queen of Hearts and stabilize the criminal organization left to them when their boss, Jabberwocky, died. The names are used both as classic references and to convey character.

Aside from the adventure portion of the story, there is also a strong romance arc between Alice and William (Catepillar). At first, the romance arc was intriguing because Alice was so opposed to it, but once I learned their backstory Alice did a complete one-eighty and the arc felt a bit flat after that.

Curiouser and Curiouser had a very strong and unique voice, pulling from both Victorian-era sensibilities and the fantastical overlay of a semi-surreal adventure. The dialogue could have done with a little more fine-tuning however, as it was sometimes hard to follow and littered with repetitious words. The use of internal monologue was used to wonderful effect, giving readers a deep insight into Alice’s perception as she describes and reacts to the world around her.

Short, fast chapters kept the pace up, making it easy to carry on from scene to scene without long lags in action. There was a lot of use of flashback cut scenes that were often quite fitting, but sometimes felt a bit heavy-handed when the flashback didn’t fit smoothly with what was happening in the present.

The largest factor that negatively impacted my experience with this book was the abundance of easily correctable editing issues. There were too many typos and repetitious or clunky phrases that jarred me out of the story. For example: “…she began to cough. Soon it took over her. Her who body rattled as she hacked.” Or: “Bess let out an excited squeal. “Alice,” she yelled excitedly.” There were also a lot of instances of missing words, like: “William said confidently as headed out into the streets of London.” I expect to find some such mistakes in any book, but when they are happening every two or three pages it gets super frustrating.

Overall, this was a fun, fast read, but it would have benefited from a more thorough edit.

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