Princess Alyss Heart flees to 19th-Century England when her aunt stages a palace coup in their home of Wondertropolis, killing Alyss’ parents, the King & Queen. Stranded in Victorian London, she tells her tragic story to the Rev. Dodgson, only to be appalled to discover that he’s turned it into a whimsical children’s fantasy. Meanwhile royal bodyguard Maddigan Hatter is frantically searching the world for Alyss but the years pass and Redd Heart, armed like all the royal family with tremendous powers of Imagination, tightens her control over Wondertropolis and the all-important Heart Crystal. A tiny remnant remains loyal to the Heart family, forming the Alyssians in hiding and preparing for the day when Alyss can return to lead them against Redd.

In this retelling, Wonderland is a real place, Alice (Alyss) is an exiled princess of the royal Heart family. The characters in Carrolls’ book are themselves distorted reflections of real Wonderlanders. Tweedledum & Tweedledee are the gallant General Doppelganger, able to split himself into two or more people. The Cheshire Cat is a part-human, part-feline assassin. The Mad Hatter is the audacious and skilled Maddigan Hatter, the Royal Bodyguard. And the Red Queen is Alyss’ murderous aunt who staged a coup leaving Alyss an orphan and friendless, lost in our world. It’s a great starting point for the retelling of a familiar story, combining high-tech weaponry with the whimsical and quasi-magical qualities of Imagination. This innate ability is wielded potently by Alyss and the other royals and to a lesser extent by many other Wonderlanders. As we meet the young Alyss on her seventh birthday, inventive Wonderlanders are showing off their devices and ideas, the best of which are transported into the Crystal Heart to become ideas and inventions in our own world.

Alyss is determined to live up to her parents’ standards and not to give into despair or revenge, despite being orphaned and dragged into our world where she must fend for herself. Her powers of Imagination give out, at which point her temporary street urchin friends abandon her and she is taken to an orphanage, from which she is adopted by the kindly Liddell family whose friend is the Rev. Dodgson. Hatter Maddigan searches our world for Alyss for thirteen years, crossing every continent until he chances upon a copy of Dodgson’s book which takes him to Oxford and then to London just as Alice is about to marry. Dodge Anders, Alyss’ lifelong friend never gives up on her either and rescues her just before Redd captures her, returning her to Wonderland to lead the rebel Alyssians in a move in which she channels both Luke & Leia from Star Wars in a final confrontation with Redd. The overall idea comes off well, despite some weaknesses. The basic premise – that this is the real story behind the Alice books – is enough to appeal to a casual reader.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.