My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“One day, long ago, she’d gone seeking an adventure and found terror instead. That day had changed the course of her life, and left her hands awash in blood. IT was not her fault, but this was how it must be.”
Wow. Just, wow. This novel was delightfully disturbing, deliciously dark, and tantalizingly twisted. It was outrageous and original and, quite simply, beautifully written. I DEVOURED every page. I stayed up past my bedtime. I could not put it down!!! From the smooth as silk prose to the intriguing plot to the multi-faceted characters, Christina Henry made this a worthwhile read for those of us who enjoy the darkly beautiful.
“When they found her all she would say was, ‘The Rabbit. The Rabbit. The Rabbit.’ Over and over.”
Alice is locked up. A sixteen year old’s misadventure in the forbidden Old City turned into one awash in blood and a lost mind. At first her parents tried to cope with their broken daughter; but eventually they gave her back to the city that destroyed her innocence by way of a mental institution. It has been a decade since that fateful choice. And, now Alice is all but abandoned in her broken head with almost no memory of what led her to stumble covered in blood back into New City mumbling about the Rabbit.
“…she realized deep down, underneath all the blood and madness, Hatcher was a rogue. Somewhere inside him was still the boy who liked to cause trouble.
Hatcher killed a bunch of people with an axe. He does not remember who he was or why he did it. His memory starts with the police coming for him and the doctors trying to medicate him. For the last decade he has roomed next to Alice; and they have been each other’s only solace in a hospital that cares not at all for its residents. Now they are out. And, it is up to Hatcher to keep this scarred girl going forward in the real world.
“Alice felt the task before them must be impossible, that they — two broken children that they were– could not overcome such a thing.”
The night that loosed Alice and Hatcher back into the world also loosed another thing, a powerful evil thing. Hatcher is connected to the thing somehow and is determined to destroy it. Alice wants to protect Hatcher, her only friend, and she has seen what a state such an evil leaves the man in. But in order to destroy this evil from their world, they must wind their way through Old City and the dangers they cannot remember. Each city street is a highway to the past and each person they encounter is more sinister than the last. In this world where magic is forbidden, how did so much survive?
“The Old City seemed to have no beginning and no end, a circling maze of stairways, and narrow alleys connecting buildings that had been patched and rebuilt on top of crumbling ruins for centuries. There was nothing gleaming and new there, not even the children, ,who seemed to be birthed with haunted eyes.”
Can I just give an approving nod to the imagery and scenery? This world of twisted alleys and broken down people is surrounded by a pristine city of false civility and illusionary dreams. The inhabitants of the Old City are not allowed in the New. They are also not allowed to leave into the countryside. It is a jail, of a sorts, where the undesirables whose only crime was being born on the wrong side of the river. Rape, kidnappings, drugs, and murder run rampant. No one is safe in this kill or be killed world.
“All around them were not only bodies but also crushed remains of lives. The furniture lovingly owned, smashed to bits. The dress saved for, pennies put aside until a girl could triumphantly walk into a shop and point to the one in the window ripped to shreds on her broken body. The shop windows shattered, the carts overturned. It made Alice realize how much of life was full of empty stuff, objects long for because the hope of them made your small life seem bigger, better, brighter.
And OMGOOSH the PROSE! I loved it! It was poetic. It was beautiful. It was seamless. It immersed me into a world so dark and captivating that I found myself on the edge of my seat wide-eyed despite the lateness of the hour. Pages flew without any concept of time. And I immediately powered up the ole computer to see what else this author offers because I definitely want more of this writing!
Recommended for those who love dark, poetic prose and complex fantasy worlds that keep you up and remind you why you love the written word.
But this tale is not for the faint of heart, oh no. This dark retelling introduces us to a world that Lewis Carroll did not, could not imagine. There are no heroes here. And know that when you enter this rabbit hole, you will not see the light of day until the tale comes to the end.
“I cannot go back, Alice. I cannot spend the remainder of my life as a moth beating its wings against a jar.”