Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Collaborative feature with Alexa. We read ARCs together and post our reviews on the same date.

Queen of Hearts (#1) by Colleen Oakes
pub 5/3/16 by HarperTeen
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received e-ARC via Edelweiss
Confession: I’ve never read Alice in Wonderland.

I know, I know. It’s definitely something I intend to fix but I’ve seen the Disney movie countless times as a kid so I’m familiar with the world, its characters and the story. At least from Alice’s point-of-view. Queen of Hearts, as the title suggests, focuses on Dinah, the Princess of Wonderland Palace and future Queen of Hearts. She’s supposed to begin her rule when she comes of age but in the meantime, life at the palace isn’t a happy one. Her father is a hateful, cruel man who has never bestowed a kind word towards her. Her tutor, while kind, just wants to focus on her queenly lessons. And her childhood best friend, Wardley, is her only ally and the person she happens to be in love with. But as she gets older and her coronation date approaches, it’s clear something isn’t right. There’s so much for Dinah to be rightly suspicious of and it’s as we delve deeper in the secrets of the kingdom that the book really shines. The author did an amazing job of world-building! I was so fascinated by how the fairytale setting (which is a little dark already if you think about it) becomes practically sinister in Oakes’ hands. She totally made it her own and gave it a dark and unique twist that very much impressed me.

(Major) reservations
The pacing of the plot felt off. It’s a really fast read and I admittedly flew through it. But it felt like a lot happened and didn’t happen at the same time. There were awkward time jumps that could’ve been a smoother transition. Plus so much of the book felt like introduction to everyone rather than Dinah diving into the complexities of our heroine and allowing her to take action. (She finally does at the halfway point but it took too long to get there.) Which brings me to my final major reservation: the characters. None of them made a strong impact on me. I didn’t really like (or trust) anyone and even Dinah herself failed to move me. If not for the world and setting, I probably would’ve rated this book lower.

Do I recommend?
It’s hard to say. As much as I was impressed by the world, it’ll always come down to the characters for me. And at the moment, I don’t feel motivated to pick up the next book.

Favorite version of Alice in Wonderland?
Seeing as that the only version I've seen is the Disney one, that's my answer! I watched that movie so many times as a kid even though it somewhat freaked me out too. I'm planning to read the book eventually. Hopefully I get to it this year!


  1. I felt exactly the same way! The book was super easy to speed through and the world-building was cool, but nothing happened. The characters were really flat. I have to say, I'm intrigued to know what happens next and will continue with the series though!

  2. I read Alice in Wonderland as a kid (and as a librarian I read about it quite often in related articles and what not) but I admit a lot of what I remember is just directly taken from the Disney version--a cartoon that I quite like despite the relatively thin plot. I'm not sure how I feel about Alice retellings myself, it's never been a story that automatically grabs me like some fairy tale retellings for instance, but I have an Alice obsessed fan I will definitely be recommending this one too. Thanks for the review!

  3. The world was incredible in this one, honestly. But I wasn't particularly fond of the plot, or even of the characters! Which is a shame, honestly. We shall see if I wind up continuing on with the series (though it is likely I probably won't).


with love,