Hatter Madigan, Book One: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X.
Frank Beddor with Adrienne Kress
-Interesting expansion on an established brand
-May be a bit juvenile for some readers
I recently won an advance copy of this, the first book in a new series that is a prequel to The Looking Glass Wars, the New York Times Best-Selling series from Frank Beddor. This time around, the focus is on the titular Hatter Madigan’s younger days as a teenager in Milliner Academy, beginning his training as a guardian and protector of Wonderland in a bit of a retelling of the classic stories from Lewis Carroll.
Madigan, along with several other students at the academy, train and learn together to not only be better students, but to prepare themselves for their duties guarding Wonderland, but not everything at the academy is as it seems. Thanks to Arlo, a combat hologram come to life inside the school, Madigan and his friends uncover a takeover plot going on literally under their feet, as a machine is currently stealing the souls of children across Wonderland and placing them in new cadets (or “Caps”) in an attempted takeover of the academy by a shady figure known only as “The Man in Black”.
A lot of people over the years have tried their hand doing a retelling of the Wonderland adventures Alice had with varying degrees of success, but no one has committed to it as much as Frank Beddor, and the result is a very interesting and lighthearted steampunk-esque mythos. References to the classic stories abound, but they are minor compared to the fresh and unique characters Beddor has created from the ground up, resulting in the world of Wonderland and its colorful characters really being turned into Beddor’s own baby. With a successful novel series as well as comic and graphic novel spinoffs, this new series just adds to the world and, quite honestly, adds more to an established property than was ever laid out by the original author.
Not only is the book well-written by a talented author, but it has the potential for widespread appeal, despite the fact that it skews toward a younger audience (junior high, to be precise). Easy enough for younger audiences to read, but still complex that an older crowd (such as myself) can find plenty to enjoy. It also doesn’t hurt that Beddor’s style is very quick, cutting out unnecessary detail in favor of character development and solid storytelling.
The end result is a book that, despite being nearly 400 pages, is an absolute breeze to read. I knocked it out in just a couple of days, generally putting in 70-80 pages at a time. The short chapters also help the book move at a brisk pace, with the longest only coming in at about 15 pages (the rest are 10 or less). While the stories of Hatter Madigan and his adventures might not appeal to everyone, they are ideal for fantasy fans. If you’ve never read any of The Looking Glass Wars, you’ll still be in good shape. Although Hatter Madigan is already established in those books, this being a prequel makes the character seem new and fresh, and a perfect jumping off point for new audiences.