By Sana Shirakawa, Quin Rose, and Nana Fumitsuki, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
The Alice spinoffs, which is to say everything but the 6 main books that Tokyopop/Yen Press put out, have always had an issue to deal with which is to say that they’re made for readers in Japan who have played the original games that the series is based on. North America hasn’t really had that luxury, even though we do now have a somewhat machine-translated tablet version of the Hearts game. So there’s always a risk that you read something that requires, if not prior knowledge, at least passing familiarity with the game world you’re in. Or, as in the case of this light novel, you have a product that lots of times seems to read like an advertisement for a game you can’t get over here.
That isn’t to say this isn’t a good novel, it’s quite well-written. The prose flows well (excellent translation by William Flanagan), and Alice and Blood, the main stars, sound like themselves. The premise, as you may have guessed, has Alice dropped in another world, a la Clover or Joker. But whereas Hearts had Alice looking for a passionate love, and Clover had Alice develop a relationship based on friendship turning to love, here she’s further in the past of Wonderland, no one knows who she is, and everyone starts out disliking her intensely. (Hence “Diamonds”.) Alice has her hands full trying to deal with this, and it’s not helped by ending up at Hatter Mansion with a Blood Dupre who’s far less adept at being aloof yet teasing than she remembers.
This book is drenched in the Blood/Alice ship, and fans of other ships won’t get much here. Eliot fans should particularly stay away, as he’s abused and beaten by Blood throughout, usually when he’s trying to shoot Alice. As for new characters, the White Queen and her Black Rabbit barely get a look, so most of what we get is Jericho Bermuda, the Gravekeeper, who seems to be based on Carroll’s dodo bird. He’s Alice’s oasis of calm in the excitement of dealing with Hatter mobster wars, and it’s frustrating that most of the hints we get about him being a “walking dead man” are not answered here.
There aren’t the sharp edges I like in some of the other Alice spinoffs – Alice doesn’t think of Lorina once, and most of her worries once she’s fallen in love come from a fear that she’ll switch countries again. The Hatter family are more battle ready and drenched in blood than the earlier games, as they’re still gaining power. But mostly I think this is a good book that makes a reader yearn to play the game. We want to see what’s up with the White Queen switching between child and adult form, like the Twins used to do. (They’re just adults here.) We’d like to see why the Black Rabbit seems to hate Alice (inverse of Peter, I expect.) Joker was mentioned to be here as well, but remains unseen. Jericho looks to be the author rewriting Mary Gowland to be less irritating, but who knows?
So this is a very good novel for Alice fans who want to dip into prose, or Alice/Blood shippers. But it also frustrated me, as it offers many questions without answers as well.