This book had all kinds of unmet potential. I love retellings of classics, especially Alice in Wonderland, so when I saw this I knew I had to give it a whirl. The twists given to the modern story are very creative, and I loved the serial killer/asylum spin even though it has been done before. My issue with this book stemmed from a need for MORE in every aspect. More carnage, more mystery, more character development, more world building, more, more, more.
The twists given to the original characters in this retelling were fairly well done. Everyone is a reincarnation of their Wonderland character, living as humans in our world. This was clever and interesting, and created a sense of mystery each and every time Alice met someone, making me wonder who it might actually be. The problem comes with the fact that aside from Pillar and Alice, all these secondary Wonderland characters we come into contact with are very two-dimensional and we are really relying on knowledge of the original story to get any kind of personality from them at all. I know we are building on an existing story, but that is not an excuse to skimp on details.
The plot was fast paced, but many events feel glossed over and confusing. The action scenes in particular are horribly done. It was impossible to tell what was happening to who, when, and why. I skimmed these sections after a while and just got to the end of the fight to figure out what the end result of it all was. Many of the "clues" Chesire leaves behind, even once explained, don't fit particularly well with the rest of the story. Maybe this is part of the "Insanity" theme, and it is supposed to feel convoluted, but it just didn't work for me.
The Chesire as a character was pretty terrifying, but I wished we could have seen more of him. Aside from one chapter that is written from his point of view, all we ever get are crime scenes and notes from him to Alice/Pillar. Adding a point of view from him would have really helped to flesh the book out and given him even more personality. As it stands, we get a good sense of his rage and his potential to hurt people, but we don't get a peek inside his deranged head which is really unfortunate.
This was a valiant effort at a new take on Alice in Wonderland. The story and characters just weren't given as much depth as I would have liked at times, and while the deaths the Chesire commits are tragic I wanted a better look inside his craziness that we just don't really get. I am still on the fence as to whether or not I'll read the next book in this series. If I do, I hope that the issues that I had with the first book are resolved in the second volume. I'd recommend this book to fans of retellings of classic stories, Alice in Wonderland, serial killer stories, and mysteries.