Book Reviews

Book Review: The Wonderland Trials

by Sara Ella

Publisher’s Synopsis

Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.

All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.

Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.

The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go. 

Confession: I’ve never actually read Alice in Wonderland. But I love reading Alice retellings, so I was thrilled to read an ARC of Sara Ella’s dystopian fantasy version.

I ended up reading The Wonderland Trials in an afternoon, which tells you that it was a great book. I’m already trying to plan when I want to reread it, to go through it slower so I can pick up on all of the finer details of the story, and also because I want to spend more time in The Curious Realities and the second book is still a long ways off.

The characters were well-written, and had plenty of layers. Honestly, after finishing the book, I felt like I could trust only half of the characters. Twists and turns abound. But back to the characters. Like I said, Sara did a great job writing them, and I loved the found-family themes she wove into the characters and their dynamics.

As stated above, the plot was full of as many twists and turns as you would expect in an Alice retelling. After all, nothing is impossible, so you never know what will happen next. I won’t say too much, so as to not accidentally spoil anything. One small quibble about the plot would be that it felt like Alice ran the Hearts Team a little too much. I would have liked to see more of the other characters helping solve the trials, showcasing their Mastry and position, and letting us get to know them more.

One of my favorite things about Alice’s retellings is the whimsy in the worldbuilding, and Sara has written a wonderful (pun possibly intended) Wonderland. It was fun and creative, while not entirely losing the dystopian tones of the genre. I hope that some of my favorite aspects of the worldbuilding get explored in Book 2, because I want to know all about them. =) There were some storyworld terms that were a little confusing towards the beginning of the book, but the terms do get explained in the story. Plus, there’s also a glossary at the back of the book to help.

The ending, while not a dreadful cliffhanger, will leave you ready to find out what happens next to Alice and the rest of Wonderland.

The Wonderland Trials was a fantastic Alice retelling and a great start to The Curious Realities Duology.

Cautions: light/moderate romance; one kiss

*The Wonderland Trials releases July 12, 2022*

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