Review: The Wonder by Colleen Oakes

Friday, September 5, 2014
Title: The Wonder
Author: Colleen Oakes
Genre: fantasy
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #2
Pages: 238
Published: Expected September 23, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

An Exiled Princess.
An Ancient Tribe.
A Dangerous Stranger with Unknown Loyalties.

Dinah, the former Princess of Wonderland Palace, has been chased into the wilds of Wonderland after the brutal murder of her brother and the ruin of her impending crown. Now, as her half-sister Vittiore sits on the throne beside her Father, the brutal King of Hearts, Dinah finds herself alone in the forbidding Twisted Wood with only Morte, a homicidal beast, for company.

Hunted by the King and his army of Cards, Dinah struggles to evade those who long for her head, including Cheshire, the King’s clever advisor, who is slowly tightening his grasp around her. Spurred on by her rising terror, the former Princess finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracy reaching far beyond the Palace and deep into the mysterious Yurkei mountain tribes.
Even with the balance of an entire Kingdom at stake, Dinah knows something that her allies and enemies do not: that the most dangerous conflict of all has already begun as she battles the enticing rage that beckons her ever closer as love slips further from her grasp.

The second book in the bestselling and award-winning Queen of Hearts Saga, The Wonder takes readers back to the most wondrous and curious places in Wonderland, and continues this darkly addictive tale featuring one of the most infamous villains of all time.

But be warned…not every fairy tale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.

Reviewed by Danielle

This review does contain spoilers for book one: The Crown.

The Wonder isn't a perfect sequel, but it's pretty darn wonderful. Oakes has continued to build one of the most unique and vivid worlds I've come across in a fairy tale retelling.

On that score, I wish there had been a bit more done with the Yurkei. After a world of pink snow, color changing flower oceans, and maddening roots, it was a little disappointing that their society is your standard nomadic horse warriors. There was the suspended tent and the mushrooms, but they were almost more confusing as I didn't get how the horses and the birds fit together. Their inclusion was great, though, and the encounter and time with them was very important, so I'm happy to have met Mundoo and Bah-Kan, even if it could have gone farther.

Undeniably darker than The Crown, the remainder of the world building is devoted to the Twisted Wood, full of snakes, bears, and poisoned berries, and the Darklands, a swamp that you really don't want to experience. There's a scene in a tunnel that is creepy and reminiscent of the Black Tower. But the real threat continues to be the King of Hearts. Dinah's flight hasn't just hurt his plans, but his pride, and he will never stop hunting her.

There's good character development for Dinah, some coming from memories of her mother, who we really got no information on in the first book. There's also a big moment where she accepts and embraces her destiny, which was excellent. She still has a tendency towards selfishness and her rages sometimes feel unprovoked. I could have lived without the scene by the lake, frankly. It felt like a step back.

I think the best part of the novel is the newest character, Sir Gorrann, the gruff old Spade set on vengeance. Dinah desperately needed someone to stand up to her and a reminder that she'd been unusually blessed, (up until the whole "framed for murder" thing.) The evolution of their dynamic over the course of the story was undoubtedly a highlight and a big part of Dinah's growth.

The Wonder continues this series in a big way. It's tense and has a surprising amount of heart. There's a massive, game-changing twist. The references to the original Wonderland are well integrated with the new world in a way that keeps it fresh. It does feel a bit like a bridge between the first and last books and pacing wasn't always smooth, but in all, a short novel I'm happy to recommend.

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