My final book review for the Booksparks 2014 Summer Reading Challenge is The Wonder, which is the second book in Colleen Oakes' Queen of Hearts series. I have to confess that this was the book in the challenge that I was least excited to read. When I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I pushed it into the category of "not my cup of tea". Although, wanting to finish the challenge, I tried to keep an open mind when starting Oakes' novel.
I don't like to read series books out of order and I had not read the first in the series. Since I was anticipating the book to be a chore, I didn't bother reading the first one, I just dove in. Oakes does a good job at filling in the gaps for the reader who may have not read the first book. I felt like she gave me enough of a recap, without being tedious and after a few chapters, I could easily follow along.
Initially there was some confusion over Oakes' reimagining of Lewis Carroll's iconic Wonderland. In Oakes' Wonderland, Dinah is our heroine. This was my initial confusion, as I always thought of Dinah as a cat and not a girl. In this story, Dinah is the rightful Queen of Hearts, who is wanted for treason and is on the run. She must stay alive long enough to figure out a way to reclaim her throne. It took me a bit to suss out the differences in Oakes's Wonderland. For example, the Cheshire Cat, isn't a cat, he is just a devious man. The cards are soldiers. They are men, not actual cards. The only tie with cards, is the name, cards suites symbolize their order in the King's guard. Once I began to understand Oakes' version of Wonderland, I could begin to allow myself to get swept away by the story.
Oakes is a solid writer. Against my preconceived notion, I actually did enjoy the story and much of that owes to Oakes ability as a writer. The subject matter didn't catch my interest, but she managed to draw me in with her storytelling abilities and quick pacing. This is a bloody story that is filled with vivid imagery and loads of creativity. Let's face it, Wonderland has been done to death and although Oakes had her own spin on the story, I spent most of the book wondering if it wouldn't have been stronger, if Oakes had set the story in her own imagined realm. As far as I can tell with the second book, it didn't actually need to be set in Wonderland.
I like Oakes as a writer and although my interest in the Queen of Hearts series ends here, I would definitely check out her other books. I think that this series would have appeal to those who love fantasy stories and Lewis Carroll fans.
Participating in the Booksparks 2014 Summer Reading Challenge has been a lot of fun. I loved the exposure to new authors and the diversity in the offerings. As a reader, I was often placed outside of my comfort zone with reading stories that I would never have otherwise encountered.