#SPFBO 8 Ever Alice by HJ Ramsay : Review

Posted On 27 October 2022

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What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

This year we have chosen four Semi Finalists.  See the announcement posts here and here.  I have since read both of the CC’s SFs and will now be reviewing both in fairly short order.  Then we have the difficult job of choosing just one book to move forward.


Anyway, today I’m reviewing Ever Alice by HJ Ramsay.  I really enjoyed this, it’s beautifully written and made me feel quite whimsical as I read.

Ever Alice is not a retelling but a sequel. Alice’s Adventures involved a young girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit hole when she was chasing a white rabbit and from there ensued the utter magical chaos of Wonderland. The next instalment showed us a slightly older version of Alice as she travels through the looking glass to experience the back to front world of Wonderland.  In Ever Alice, a teenage version of Alice finds that her sweet ramblings about white rabbits are no longer cute or fanciful and her family, worried about her mental health, proceed to engage a string of doctors.  Eventually Alice is placed in an asylum where the treatment she will receive is scary to say the least.  Once again, she manages to escape to Wonderland but is it a mistake to come back, the Queen of Hearts once asked for her head after all.

What I really enjoyed about this is that the author brings to us with Ever Alice a sequel that very much moves the story forward whilst maintaining the essence of Wonderland.  So, we still have the utter chaos, the crazy behaviour and the nonsense and it all relies very heavily on the original body of works but at the same time we’re now observing this through the eyes of a 15 year old who is feeling disillusioned (to say the least) and her perspective lends the story a much darker view.  There’s also an alternate history running through this, what started in Alice’s adventure with the slightly veiled reference to the War of the Roses has progressed to the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth 1 (the Queen of Hearts) and Mary Queen of Scots (The Queen of Spades).  To be honest, that might be something that readers pick up on or not but I felt like it added an interesting layer and although I’m definitely not a history buff I could see certain elements leading the story, particularly the Queen of Heart’s paranoia about plots against the throne.

Alternate histories aside, I enjoyed returning to Wonderland and meeting up with familiar characters over again. In Ever Alice everyone is called by their own names which, whilst a little confusing at first, does actually make a certain sort of sense.  So, for example, the White Rabbit is Ralph and the Queen of Hearts is Rosamund. The characters here do feel different but this is an element to the story that I like, it makes you stop to consider, have the characters changed or is Alice seeing them more clearly now she’s a little older.  The Mad Hatter (William) is something of a schemer, Ralph isn’t quite the softie he first seemed although he’s still regularly late, often disappears and simply can’t be relied upon. Rosamund’s character has also intensified. Heads are now rolling at such an alarming rate that Wonderland might be empty if someone doesn’t put the breaks on soon!

Wonderland itself proved to still be crazily chaotic. I loved all the upside/downness of it all and thought the author managed to come up with some wonderfully witty and silly creations of her own.  I frequently found myself smiling at the world, the place and the characters and had no problem with racing to the conclusion.

In terms of criticisms. Well, not much from me. I do think this relies on a certain knowledge of the world and characters, that being said, having read the original works and a few adaptations over the years I don’t think I could reliably say that this couldn’t be read as a standalone – I just think it’s better to be read with some prior knowledge. I would also say to moderate your expectations.  This is not quite the charmingly innocent and silly children’s tale that you might want or expect.  This can be quite shockingly dark, even unexpectedly brutal and the ending is definitely one to ponder. Bittersweet- maybe.  Possibly leaves room for manoeuvre and undoubtedly provides plenty of food for thought.

I had a good time reading Ever Alice.  It’s definitely a lot of crazy mixed in with a strange alternate history and a harsh look at the brutality of asylums and early treatments where mental health issues were concerned.  It took me in a direction I didn’t expect and kept me thinking long after I’d turned the last page.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


2 Responses to “#SPFBO 8 Ever Alice by HJ Ramsay : Review”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    “Crazily chaotic” sounds like a very intriguing definition! 🙂

  2. Tammy

    I’m not an Alice in Wonderland fan, unless it’s a darker retelling. So this might work for me😁

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