Dinah has been called to the Great Hall to meet with her father. It isn't something she relishes at all. She gets dressed in her silks with adorning red hearts everything, along with her crown of rubies and makes her way through the Cards to the King's throne...and what happens next begins her saga.
Vittiore is Dinah's step-sister. Unlike Dinah, with dark hair and eyes, Vittiore is blonde with blue eyes, loved by all, especially the king. There are favorites in the castle, and Vittiore rises to the top. Dinah is beyond frustrated with this new girl and doesn't give her the time of day. Perhaps she should...
Charles, Dinah's older brother, cannot be the next in line to the crown because of his condition. His entire apartment in the palace is filled with hats he makes, which are very coveted. People call him the Mad Hatter, Dinah knows he is more than that.
Wardley, a childhood friend of Dinah's and a Heart Card (soldiers bound to protect the royal family), sees the pain and humiliation Dinah has to face every time she faces her father, and he is there for for her. His support and friendship will be tested by both Dinah and the court. Where do his allegiances lie?
Harris never runs late. He makes sure his student, Dinah, is kept on schedule. He has been with her since Dinah's mother died and is loyal and kind. In fact, Harris is more of a father figure in Dinah's life than anyone else. He is the bargaining chip between Dinah and the king...if she doesn't do what he asks, Harris won't be around much longer.
Cheshire is the king's right hand man. He is always whispering in the king's ear, with a grin of evil on his face. He is the only one the king trusts and the one Dinah trusts least. Although not a royal, Cheshire wields a lot of power.
The Cards play an important role in Wonderland. The Spades are mercenary soldiers even the Heart Cards fear. They are wild and bent on destruction, which the king believes makes the best type of soldiers against his enemies. The Clubs are Wonderland's judge and jury. Most of them work in the Towers, where the criminals and insane are taken until Execution Day, where their heads are cut off. The Diamonds are the men who work with the royal coffers. Dinah learns how to handle these different characters, as only a future queen can. But will they be loyal to her?
Then one evening, she finds a vial with a message hidden in it
within a tart that is served to her. Is this a trap, or is this meant to help? After she reads the message and undertakes the journey, even she is no longer sure. But her life is at stake...
We all know the Queen of Hearts in Carroll's classic novel, and Colleen Oakes has done an excellent job in recreating Wonderland, the characters, and especially the future queen in this amazing fantasy re-telling. Put the classic back on the shelf and don't read into the pages what will happen. Allow the book to take you to this Wonderland in all of its wildness, hidden secrets, danger, and pomp. And when the reader comes to the end of the book wanting to know more, fear not! There is an excerpt from the next book in the saga! Recommended for grades MS-HS.