Book Review: Unbirthday (Twisted Tales #10)

Published September 1st 2020

Author: Liz Braswell

What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?

Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She’d rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian’s lively salon, ignoring her sister’s wishes that she stop all that “nonsense” and become a “respectable” member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss Yao’s teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She’s also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she’s curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming.

But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects-the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There’s something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all-a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice’s help. Mary Ann.

Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts’ tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time? 

Twisted Tales Series

Unbirthday (#10)

Unbirthday is the tenth installment in the Twisted Tales series. Each novel is a standalone and takes the classic Disney movies and gives them a twist to create a new, sometimes darker, tale. In this novel, it has been eleven years since Alice had her initial adventure in Wonderland and now, she is 18-years-old living with her family in Victorian England. She is now a photographer and Wonderland seems like a distant dream. I am not a history expert, but I would assume at this period, she would not be allowed to wander around to take photos on her own without a chaperone, so I feel that this part of the story was never addressed. It did not take away from my enjoyment of the story, but it was one aspect that I wished was explored in a little detail. As Alice is developing her photos, she begins seeing images of characters from Wonderland that seem to be in need. Alice is summoned back to Wonderland as the Queen of Hearts is madder than ever and the creatures of Wonderland need Alice’s help.

As Alice goes through Wonderland, it was nice to see her reflect on everything and see it all through a new perspective. There are many nonsensical elements throughout the story which gave it a nice nostalgia feeling for the magic of Wonderland. Throughout the story, Alice ventures between the real world and Wonderland as she navigates trying to figure everything out. In the real world, there is a mayoral election occurring with the leading candidate, Ramsbottom, being xenophobic. There is a love interest introduced in this story. It was well-done as Katz felt well-matched with Alice and their story was sweet without taking too much away from the main plot. With the time period, Alice may come from a privileged background, but there are still many limitations in what she is allowed to do in society. Katz comes from a different background as the son of immigrants, which comes with its own challenges, but as a male he has privileges that Alice does not. The two of them challenged each other and I liked their banter and general interactions.  It was nice to the parallels between Wonderland and the real world as Alice navigates both governments and trying to make things right.

The novel itself is long at over 500 pages, which was filled with a lot of interesting details, but, at times, felt too long. I loved the whimsy of Wonderland, but there were times that I wished there was more emphasis on this part of the story. This story feels different than some of the other novels in the series as it felt more like a sequel compared to a twist on the original. This worked in the novel’s favor, for me, as I felt it flowed better with Alice older compared to making a twist during her original time in Wonderland.  As the story takes place in both the real world and Wonderland, it had the feeling of two stories in one. While I liked each and how they weaved together, there were moments where I wish the focus remained on Wonderland, especially with the cover featuring the well-known Wonderland figures. Overall, this story was interesting, but just not quite all the way to fantastic for me. Still, it was nice to see the unique direction the author took the story and I look forward to reading the remaining novels in the series.

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