Title: Gears of Wonderland
Author: Jason G. Anderson
Type of Book: Fantasy steampunk
James Riggs lives a normal life with a mind-numbing job, an overbearing boss, and a demanding fiancée. Then he witnesses the murder of his best friend. Saved from the murderer by a strange man in a white suit, James is cast down a hole and into a world he always believed was a kid’s story. Wonderland.
But things have changed since Alice’s visit. The Knave of Hearts has seized the Heart throne, conquered all of Wonderland with his steam-powered technological marvels, and rules the land with an iron fist.
Aided by the Mad Hatter’s daughter, James journeys to discover why he has been brought to Wonderland and how the tattoo on his arm could be the key to Wonderland’s salvation—or its destruction.
As always, I feel it’s important to give some context about how I approach the books I review to level set expectations. So full disclosure, I have never read Alice in Wonderland, I’ve never watched the movies, and my knowledge of all things Wonderland in general are based purely on high-level references absorbed through regular media channels over the years. So I admit that I started reading with a bit of trepidation given I don’t have a lot of exposure to the Alice story.
Good news- it makes no difference! I think the author balanced the introduction of familiar characters (the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Catepillar, etc.) for fans of Alice in Wonderland and a reader like me, who had previously had little exposure to the story very well.
I got hooked into James’s plight right from the get go. He’s just a regular guy who I think anyone can easily identify with: he’s in a job he doesn’t like, engaged to a woman who isn’t right for him, and is basically just plodding through life. That is, until his best friend is murdered in front of him and he ends up getting pushed down a hole into Wonderland.
This is Wonderland 150 years after Alice’s visit and things have changed; for the worse. James is caught up in the rebellion against the Knave of Hearts who has declared himself King of Hearts and has either destroyed or taken over the other five kingdoms of Wonderland. He rules with fear through the use of advanced technological machines, and at first glance appears unstoppable.
But you discover that it appears fate intervened by bringing James to Wonderland, and as he meets more Wonderland natives and learns more about himself, he embraces a whole new destiny.
I always like the “David vs. Goliath” type theme that is woven into this story. Considering James lands in Wonderland with nothing but the clothes on his back, and a few weeks later is overthrowing the most powerful man in Wonderland, it would be easy to be pushed beyond the boundaries of believability. But the author handles this well. James needs a lot of help along the way, and if I have any critique of the story at all, it’s that the very first person he encounters in Wonderland is the one that sets all of the other dominoes up for him (pretty convenient).
But I loved exploring Wonderland through James’s eyes and getting to know all of the other characters. James is a likable protagonist, but it’s the supporting cast who really make the book.
Gears of Wonderland is a well-written fantasy adventure with a little something for everyone. I would highly recommend it.
Cege’s Rating: 5/5
**Reviewer disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of Gears of Wonderland in exchange for my fair and honest review.**