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Monday, October 5, 2009

“ArchEnemy” by Frank Beddor w/Bonus Review of “Hatter M: Mad With Wonder” (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official The Looking Glass Wars Website
Official Card Soldier Wars Website
Order “ArchEnemyHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Seeing Redd

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Frank Beddor is a former world champion freestyle skier, film producer (There’s Something About Mary), actor, and stuntman. Beddor is currently the CEO of the production company Automatic Pictures and the New York Times bestselling author of The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy. He is also the co-writer of the Hatter M graphic novels.

PLOT SUMMARY: The power of Imagination has been lost! Now it’s all about the artillery as AD52’s, crystal shooters, spikejack tumblers and orb cannons are unleashed in a war of weapons and brute force.

As Alyss searches wildly for the solution to the disaster that has engulfed her Queendom, Arch declares himself King of Wonderland. Meanwhile, deep within the Valley of Mushrooms the Caterpillar Oracles issue this prophecy: “Action shall be taken to ensure the safety of the Heart Crystal. For Everqueen.” But who is Everqueen?

As the metamorphosis of Wonderland unfolds, enemies become allies, bitter rivals face off, and Queen Alyss and Redd Heart must both confront their pasts in this thrilling, no-holds-barred conclusion to the New York Times bestselling series...

CLASSIFICATION: The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy is a mix of fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction that audaciously reimagines Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass”. In the trilogy, characters die, blood is spilled and the villians are scary, but overall the books adhere to their YA rating. Even though aimed toward a younger audience, I would still highly recommend the series to adults as well as younger readers...

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 384 pages divided over three Parts, fifty-eight chapters, a Prologue and a Coda. Also includes interior illustrations provided by Vance Kovacs (AD-52 breakdown, Part One), Tae Young Choi (Part Two), Jennifer Bricking (Part Three) and Brian Flora (Part Four). Narration is in the third-person via multiple characters including Alyss Heart, Redd, Arch, Dodge Anders, Bibwit Harte, Hatter Madigan, Homburg Molly, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, etc. “ArchEnemy” is the concluding volume in The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy after “The Looking Glass Wars” and “Seeing Redd”, and wraps up the series nicely while also leaving openings for possible sequels...

October 15, 2009 marks the North American/UK Hardcover publication of “ArchEnemy” via Dial Books. Cover art provided by Vance Kovacs.

ANALYSIS:In The Looking Glass Wars, readers are introduced to a Wonderland quite different from the one depicted in Lewis Carroll’s books. Earth and Wonderland are parallel universes connected by portals (The Pool of Tears). Wonderland itself is a fantastical landscape where magic (White Imagination/Black Imagination) and advanced technology exist side-by-side. Alice Liddell is actually Alyss Heart, future queen of Wonderland whose empire was usurped by her evil aunt Redd. The Hatter is really Hatter Madigan, the queen’s personal bodyguard and expert fighter; the White Rabbit is Bibwit Harte, the Heart family’s tutor; the Cheshire Cat is The Cat, Redd’s deadly assassin; Tweedledee & Tweedledum are represented as General Doppelgänger who can split his body into two personas Doppel & Gänger; the caterpillars are actually oracles; and Reverend Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, is the writer who twisted Alyss’ real-life confessions into the fairy tale that became known as Alice In Wonderland...” — Taken from FBC’s review of “Seeing Redd

ArchEnemy” is the third and final volume in The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy and what a finish it is! In the wake of events in “Seeing Redd”, most notably the activation of WILMA (Weapon of Inconceivable Loss and Massive Annihilation), Imagination is now dimished throughout Wonderland and various factions are taking advantage including King Arch of the Boarderlands and an anti-imagination rebellion led by the Lord and Lady Clubs. Unbeknownst by all is the dire repercussions that the lost Imagination is having on Earth. To make matters worse, the enigmatic caterpillar-oracles are pursuing their own agenda, one that includes the Heart Crystal, the mysterious Everqueen, and Homburg Molly who is still reeling from the terrible loss and shocking revelations experienced in “Seeing Redd”...

Backed by electric pacing, heart-pounding action, interesting subplots like Alyss & Redd working together and the events played out in Oxford, and satisfying resolutions (Alyss vs. Redd, Dodge vs. The Cat, Hatter M & Homburg Molly, Alyss & Dodge, etc), the story is one of “ArchEnemy’s” greatest strengths. Other strengths include the book’s witty humor (Redd’s home turned into a tourist attraction, Bibwit’s incessant chatter, and the caterpillar-oracles’ love for tarty-tarts are just a few examples) and Frank Beddor’s glowing imagination. Personally, what I love most about “ArchEnemy”, and the trilogy as a whole, is the creativeness of the author which is evident in everything from Wonderland itself (Wondertropolis, Outerwilderbeastia, Boarderland, Everlasting Forest, Chessboard Desert, the Pool of Tears, Mount Isolation, Valley of Mushrooms) and the unforgettable cast of characters to the technology (Glass Eyes, AD52s, cannonball spiders, crystal shooters, mauler rifles, whipsnake grenades, spikejack tumblers, the Crystal Continuum) used in the trilogy as well as Wonderland’s flora/fauna (jabberwocks, gwynooks, hollizalea) and even measurements (spirit-dane lengths, gwormmy-blinks, lunar hour).

Comparatively, The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy may lack the substance, characterization and complexity of such popular children’s series as the Harry Potter books, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy, but as a whole is just as fun and entertaining. In the end, “ArchEnemy” closes out Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars in exciting fashion and cements the trilogy as one of the best new YA fantasy series currently published...

BONUS REVIEW — “Hatter M: Mad With Wonder”:

Hatter M: Mad With Wonder” written by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier. Illustrated by Sami Makkonen. Cover by Tae Young Choi. Release Date: October 15, 2009. Published by Automatic Pictures (Preview included below).

Mad With Wonder” is the second geo-graphic novel which chronicles Hatter Madigan’s 13-year search for Princess Alyss who was lost on Earth after escaping through the Pool of Tears. This time around, Madigan’s quest takes him to America during the Civil War and finds the Milliner crossing paths with circus freaks, a group of outlaws, Mr. Van de Skülle, a child gifted with the power of healing, and a vampire as well as being imprisoned in an insane asylum...

The first Hatter M volume was nominated for an Eisner Award and won the 2009 Silver IPPY Award for Best Graphic Novel, so “Mad With Wonder” had some large shoes to fill. On that note, the graphic novel comes up short in the story department, mainly because nothing really happens. To be clear, stuff does happen in “Mad With Wonder”—there’s plenty of Milliner action with Madigan rescuing innocents and dispatching enemies, not to mention the usual twisted humor that can be expected from Frank Beddor like the escapades that Hatter’s hat finds itself in as well as revisiting the Milliner’s training—but overall the graphic novel leaves the reader hanging, especially in regards to General Jubal Early which will be explored in the third Hatter M volume.

As far as the artwork, I love Ben Templesmith’s style but was a bit disappointed with his efforts in the first graphic novel, particularly the coloring. So I had no problem with Frank going with a different artist on “Mad With Wonder” and felt Sami Makkonen was an inspired choice. I had never heard of the artist before but was blown away by his blend of detail, ambiance and surrealism. In short, Mr. Beddor picked a winner with Sami Makkonen whose work instantly improved the visual side of the Hatter M graphic novels.

Overall, because of the story I felt “Mad With Wonder” was a step down from the first Hatter M geo-graphic novel. Despite this, the graphic novel as a whole is more than worth its cover price because the book is loaded with awesome extras like a preview from the third Hatter M volume, an excerpt from “ArchEnemy”, striking illustrations, and a ton of information that ‘proves’ Wonderland’s existence. Plus, “Mad With Wonder” is still a blast to read, especially if you’re a fan of Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars...


Beth F said...

I've had the first two of the trilogy on my wish list for a long while; now that the third one is out I may actually get around to reading them.

Those toothy roses in the GN are scary!

Robert said...

It's a great trilogy Beth :) Very enjoyable and one of my favorite YA series. The graphic novels are great too, and despite some of the artwork, is suitable for younger readers...

Okie said...

Thanks for the review. I read the first novel shortly after it came out and loved it. The second one left me with mixed feelings even though it was still a lot of fun...the mixed feelings are likely due to the cliffhanger style ending which left me aching to finish the trilogy.

I'm stoked that this is finally released and I look forward to reading it.

As you mention, the books may lack in substance and any "high art" of literature, but they are a good fun read and a worthy adventure on which to embark.

Also, thanks for the update on the new graphic series.

Dave said...

Whoa, the graphics are fantastic. Reminds me of some of the darker stuff I read in comics when I was younger. A bit of "Spawn meets Tim Burton" feeling!

Emperor said...

Holy good god! Next paycheck, this is on the list! So avant-garde...I love it!

Why haven't I heard about this? Probably because it was released while I was in Iraq. *Facepalm*

Yet another reason to get out of the Army.

Lillianne said...

i totally love the first two books!! own them - cant wait to get lost in Arch Enemy as well!! is it avaliable in NZ??


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