Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

SPFBO Status: Semifinalist

Medium: Audiobook/ebook

Overview (No Spoilers):

Hickory, dickory, dock. Ticktock, ticktock, ticktock…”

The Queen of Hearts knows there are those plotting to take the throne from her. Once, she was nearly impaled by an arrow aimed straight for her heart – out of sheer luck, it landed a hundred feet away. Naturally, the best way to deal with traitors such as these is to behead them. With the clock counting down to the next assassination attempt, the Queen must outwit and outlast her numerous enemies. But she must be careful, because the last thing anyone needs is another war in Wonderland.

It’s a good thing Wonderland isn’t real, or so everyone keeps telling Alice. Her overactive imagination is surely the result of the time she fell in the river and nearly drowned. With a little psychiatric help, Alice will be free of these delusions. So, what’s a girl to do when the White Rabbit shows up again, recruiting her to kill the Queen?…

Content warning: Alice does spend time in an Asylum with doctors and nurses who prefer the “do something” mantra over “do no harm”. Published in August 2019, Ever Alice is H.J. Ramsay’s retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story alternates between Rosamund (the Queen of Hearts) and Alice as they navigate the ever-shifting world around them. If you’re familiar with Lewis Carroll’s tale, you’ll recognize many of the characters. Similarly, it was fun spotting familiar characters not native to Wonderland (like Marco Polo). Adding to the atmosphere, Ramsay seamlessly integrates historical fact with whimsical fiction in this narrative.

Upon finishing Ever Alice, it was satisfying to recognize how different parts of the story are linked. And stylistically, Ramsay maintains the quirkiness of Carroll’s original tale. In fact, one of my favorite things is how an established trope or phrase can be twisted to represent a new meaning or the opposite of what’s familiar. It acted as a way to jolt my attention and is done in clever ways. Very unimportant indeed. 

All of the characters that you know by nicknames are referred to in this book by their actual first names (Rosamund for the Queen, William for the Mad Hatter, Ralph for the White Rabbit, Charles for the Dodo). Sometimes that made it harder for me to remember who was who when I picked the book up later. But of the characters in this book, I had the hardest time with the Prince of Hearts, as he didn’t seem to fit quite right in this eccentric world, perhaps aligning a bit too closely with the traditional stereotypes of a young prince. Additionally, the Mad Hatter is a character that I usually quite enjoy, but his character, while refreshingly different, was quite unlikable and had none of the charm I was expecting.

One of my favorite parts of the original Alice in Wonderland story was Wonderland itself. In Ever Alice, however, the story is more or less restricted to two locations, limiting the worldbuilding in the process. I would have loved to see the story evolve beyond these boundaries, as the glimpses we are privy to are whimsical, dark, and wholly sufficient to pique my curiosity for more. That said, the maze-like insides of the Castle of Hearts was its own mystery with endlessly shifting rooms and hallways.

Overall, Ramsay captures the magic of Wonderland in Ever Alice with its dark undertones, familiar characters, and an ending that will leave you questioning the boundaries of reality and imaginary with far reaching implications. 

And I would be remiss to not wish you a very happy Unbirthday!

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):

  • Did Katherine actually see the White Rabbit since Alice says he’d been in front of both of them? Is she ignoring what she saw to keep herself out of the Asylum?
  • Why are some of Madame Diamond’s cards blank during a reading with Rosamund? Is it because the Queen of Hearts dies so there’s nothing left to see? Did Madame Diamond slip the cards in to throw Rosamund off?
  • Some historical accuracy with Dr. Gottlieb Burckhardt in 1888 at Préfargier.
  • Is Bess an informant for Charles? One of his crickets?
  • There’s never an end to your reign, my dear, only beginnings.” How many iterations of the Queen of Hearts have they gone through in Wonderland?
  • It took me too long to recognize that the “ink” blots between the chapters represent cup marks, presumably from tea overflowing/spilling.
  • The days are marked by flowers and increasing the number in the tens place. Is the tens place changing because Rosamund is the mirror image of Alice? Is everything backwards (sayings, manners, importance, etc) because it had been Ecila’s world, not Alice? As though it’s all through the looking glass?
  • Foreshadowing: banana peels being deadly, parents dying in a car crash, …
  • You know, normally, I would require that my ladies are from one of the houses—” Are there areas of Wonderland that aren’t in areas designated by the houses?
  • Does every Queen of Hearts adopt (or have) a name that includes some variation of “Rose” in it?
  • Are the floating heads real or hallucinations for Rosamund? Why couldn’t anyone else see them? They were also a loose end that never seemed to resolve itself or play a bigger part in the story. They conveniently revealed the switch between the White Rabbit and the March Hare, but what other purpose did they serve other than to haunt the Queen? How is Rosamund able to touch the heads? Why do they only appear at night? Why is she the only one who can see them?
  • In Wonderland, do they have both storks and traditional births as ways to have children? Thomas comes from a “stork” and Sabrina is pregnant…
  • Why was Thomas left behind like Moses as a baby?
  • I had a hard time figuring out what Thomas’ motives are with Alice. I think he really does just want to be friends, but it was confusing, probably because it’s from Alice’s slightly infatuated perspective.
  • Why does Rosamund hate cats so much? Is it because they’re fluffy and she prefers lumpy and scratchy things? Or does it start from knowing that Chester is a “traitor”?
  • What methods would Chester have preferred for removing the queen? What happens now for the previous agreements with the House of Clubs? Will Thomas still marry the princess? Did Thomas ever like Alice?
  • Will Alice take a Rose-inspired name? 
  • Will Katherine show up in Wonderland at some point, like Constance did to Ecila, and blame Alice for the deaths of their parents?
  • Is this all in Alice’s head? Will the next Queen of Hearts also come from outside the four houses?
  • Knowing what happened to Alice, the bricked up doors back to the real world had an instantly more horrifying meaning. 
  • I kept getting vibes from other movies such as Hanna and Inception, along with many other references ranging from the Bible to historical figures.
  • Will sweet Alice eventually turn into the raving ‘off with their heads’ Queen of Hearts?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s