A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Queen of Hearts, the first installment in a new series by Colleen Oakes, again shows the author's taste for inventing lurid, violent, dark alternatives to beloved children's stories, as she did in her previous Wendy Darling series. Here, the Alice in Wonderland character best known for shouting "Off with their heads!" is a teen monarch-in-waiting in a surreal kingdom (croquet games, birds running amok, and other baggage from the original story) steeped in murderous intrigue and marital infidelity. Beheadings, dismemberments, stabbings, torture, imprisonments, and other violence are constant. While some villain-origin tales evoke empathy and offer insight into their central character, Princess Dinah's occasional relatable moments (her fondness for her mad brother, her longing for her unloving father's approval, her struggles to stay alive) aren't enough to set her apart from the horrific world into which she was born.
What's the story?
Dark-haired, dark-skinned, stocky, determined Dinah will someday take the throne of Wonderland as QUEEN OF HEARTS -- if she lives that long in a kingdom where murder, torture, monsters, and deadly intrigue are commonplace. Maybe she'll even get to marry her childhood friend Wardley, who makes her swoon. But, as she turns 16, her comparatively secure life is upended by the arrival of her womanizing father's illegitimate -- but much blonder and prettier -- daughter. And as time passes, she's in more and more danger as the whole kingdom seems to turn against her.
Is it any good?
Between the unrelieved gore, dismemberment, torture, and treachery, as well as the rising body count and lack of likability in any of the characters, there's not much to recommend here. Still, author Colleen Oakes has built a fan base with her previous dragging of beloved childhood tales to the evil side, and those readers may find these dark doings intriguing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories based on characters and themes from other stories. Which books, movies, or TV shows can you recall in which this worked well? When does it just seem lazy?
Some stories about villains make them sympathetic or at least relatable. Can you think of any examples?
How would you feel if an unknown-to-you sibling appeared out of nowhere and started disrupting your life?
- Author: Colleen Oakes
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: July 6, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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