The Looking Glass Wars: Not recommended as a book

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Frank Beddor The Looking Glass Wars Seeing RedThe Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars, somewhat a reimagining of Alice In Wonderland, has its moments but is generally weak throughout. It’s a “multi-platform” concept, which means along with the requisite trilogy (Seeing Redd is out currently as book two), there are graphic novels and a planned movie and video game. What does all this mean?

Perhaps a wonderfully immersive experience in the world if one buys all the stuff. But if you’re like me and just want to enjoy a book, you’re a bit out of luck.

I don’t know if Frank Beddor is saving material for the other platforms, or if they’ll all have similar issues, but the big problem with LGW is its thinness. A thinness that permeates just about every aspect of the book.

Setting? Thin. Characters move across areas of land that we have no idea of how big they are or what they are like. I’d call them stage-set plains and forests but they don’t even achieve that level. They just don’t exist on the page. The same is true for the major city, the villain’s fortress, even single rooms. Characters move effortlessly in and out whether they’re crossing a doorway or a volcanic plain. It’s almost like the author wrote “volcanic plain”
and then is leaving it to the director or video game guy to actually draw a visual. So readers are left out. My guess is the story will work better in those more visual mediums where story is less paramount.

Characters? Thin. Evil characters are evil. Why? We don’t know, really. How do we know they’re evil? They kill people. Except when they don’t. Or except when they do. Good people are good. Why?
Because they’re good. How do we know? They do good things — they’re loyal for years for instance. “Years” of course being described over a few paragraphs. One character has the possibility of a grey area, but it’s never realized. Another plays at amorality, but it’s never taken seriously.

Plot? Plot is serviceable in the long arc but it all happens too quickly and too arbitrarily and with little sense of context. Some characters can “imagine” things into reality, but again, it’s too arbitrary, happens or doesn’t happen too conveniently, and is explained in too little detail. Victories and defeats are anti-climactic and seem to have little to do with what is important.

I could go on but I have no desire to beat up on a book or Frank Beddor just to belabor a point. Suffice to say there just isn’t much here to enjoy beyond the basic premise and few all-too-short and all-too-thinly-developed concepts.

I know some will say one shouldn’t expect a certain level of depth or sophistication in YA literature, but there is just far too much YA out there that does offer those things to make this an excuse. The Gregor the Overlander series of recent vintage, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series of classic vintage, and lots of other choices in between. They don’t have multiple platforms — just moving stories with rich characters you care about.

Not recommended as a book. You might try the other mediums.


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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