Book Review: “Alice The Dagger” by Ashley McLeo

 

Cover of "Alice the Dagger" by Ashley McLeo
Cover of “Alice the Dagger” by Ashley McLeo.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Alice The Dagger” by Ashley McLeo!

I’ve read other Alice In Wonderland-inspired titles before, including “A Blade So Black” and “I Am Alice: Body Swap In Wonderland.” However, I hadn’t read an Alice In Wonderland-inspired title or retelling for quite some time. It was nice to pick up another retelling and see how this one went.

Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

They call me the dagger.

I’m an assassin and that’s all I’ve ever known.

So when a white rabbit tells me that loved ones are waiting for me in the Wonderland Court of Faerie, it’s surprising. And then, I learn something even more shocking.

The Red Queen stole the Crown of Wonderland from my mother. Murdered her too. The queen singlehandedly created my reality of death and blood and murder.

While that’s devastating, I can handle those emotions. Its what I have been trained to do.

What I don’t know how to handle is rebel leader Henri Hatter.

He’s loved by everyone. A man who sings in the streets because people ask for aether’s sake. A faerie who knows more about my past than anyone—including me.

A good man who could crush my heart if I let him in.

Despite my claims that I work alone, Hatter and two nosey little pixies insist on sticking with me.

Only one thing is for sure, with them by my side assassinating the Red Queen will be unlike any other job I’ve ever tackled.”

Character Development: 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading Alice, the main heroine. She really didn’t let anyone try to trick her get past her, and she has a very strong personality. She’s quick to call people out for anything bad they do to her, and she has a fairly decisive nature. It was fun to watch her grow into the role as princess of Wonderland.

I also enjoyed reading the Hatter and the pixies (Dee and Dum) in this book as well. They were overall fun to read in terms of personalities and their growing bonds with Alice. However, I was expecting more potential romantic moments between Hatter and Alice, especially since it’s obviously advertised in the second half of the summary.

However, there barely was anything of note hinting toward a romance with Alice and the Hatter. I had more growing trust/friendship vibes instead. As someone who doesn’t actively seek out romance unless reading a romance novel, I didn’t mind this. However, other readers expecting romance to develop a lot will be disappointed. I suspect the author plans to incorporate more romantic moments in the books taking place after this one.

Worldbuilding Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Whether you enjoy the worldbuilding will depend on how much you don’t mind the book mixing up some worldbuilding from the original Wonderland story with Through The Looking Glass, its sequel. The Red Queen is synonymous with the Queen of Hearts, for example. The concept of Hatter being part of a rebel group against the Red Queen may also remind some of Disney’s live-action adaptation of Alice In Wonderland. I was mostly fine with how the worldbuilding was executed in this book, but others might not enjoy it.

I thought that only faeries and pixies would exist in this book, based on the summary. The inclusion of vampires from the beginning of the book threw me off a bit, as a result. Thankfully, this doesn’t last long (only the first few chapters) before the reader and the main protagonist are taken to this book’s version of Wonderland.

Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The overall plot was fine to read. It was fun seeing Alice dive into Wonderland and learn about her origins while defeating many enemies along the way. However, I do think the novel could have been slightly shortened, especially since the middle lagged on a lot on developing much of the actual main story and focused more on worldbuilding/backstory building.

There aren’t many standout moments outside of combat. I also do think Alice could have struggled more with working on her magic (aether-blessed abilities, as they’re called). I understand why the author might want to timeskip that part rather than go into deep detail on Alice working on her magic, especially since the book itself is already quite long. However, I was hoping to see more details of her struggles and how that might affect her in battle. It could have also been a fun plot point to play with during her three trials competing against her aunt, in the last quarter of the book.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3.75 out of 5 stars!

If you’re looking for an action-packed Wonderland adaptation, I recommend reading this one. However, those who want their adaptations more-strictly adhering to the original Wonderland story might not have as much fun reading this.


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