Summary (courtesy of Smashwords): There’s nothing wrong with a touch of madness. – Cheshire Cat
Someday Hatta will save the kingdom. In his mind, at least. But his talents of uncharacteristic kindness and a passion for colors hardly qualify him for such a destiny. In a kingdom that doesn’t need saving, a young man ignorant of social norms is the unlikeliest of heroes. Along the way, the Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, White Queen, and other familiar characters emerge to fill their eminent roles as well.
Witness literature’s most lovable lunatic’s tangled ascent into madness.
And here's what I thought: I was introduced to this book by vvb32, from one of her contests. Before that, I wasn't familiar with the author --- but now, consider myself to be a huge fan. Beautifully written, this book pulled me into a world that I thought I might know, and showed me I knew it not at all.
At first, you read a lot about Chism, and that threw me off a bit -- I was wondering, who is he? What's he doing in the story? But, I found his character to be intriguing, and when he snaps into action on page 5, I knew I was going to like him. I really liked how the author wrote the fighting scenes. I know that might sound a bit odd, but sometimes, when characters fight, it sounds all awkward (or completely unrealistic). Daniel Coleman writes a fighting scene that is full of fluid, deadly grace -- I felt like when I was reading, I was visualizing it clearly -- and it was great. I also liked that Chism seemed very real as a character.
Hatta's a completely different character than Chism, as you would expect. And, he's completely what you expect him to be, if you imagine him as the Mad Hatter (and actually, the author does have a note at the end, explaining Hatta from the original Lewis Carroll story and how he fits with the Mad Hatter and all). He's all about color -- the brighter, the better. Here's an example: "His purple boots always made him smile. What was more wonderful than purple leather?" (p. 11) Indeed. He has an interesting way of looking at the world, and he certainly seems to see the good in all sorts of people. Another example: "As with other small towns, people greeted him warmly enough. Most either raised an eyebrow or stared openly after he passed. No one was aggressive or demeaning and the street was a little brighter in his wake." (p. 13) However, things are not always easy for Hatta, and the colors aren't always kind. You'll have to read the story to see what I mean.
I really liked how Chism and Hatta paralleled each other at times. Both definitely have more to them than meets the eye, for example. Chism isn't that big for fifteen, but he's a superb warrior. Hatta appears to be a bit odd (and extremely colorful), but within his convoluted logic lie insight and truth. Each of the have their own habits to keep themselves at peace (Chism counts things, and Hatta relies on color). The two characters' stories seem completely at odds at first, and then when the two come together, everything falls into place. And what about the Cheshire Cat? He's here, too, don't worry.
I appreciated how Coleman created the world in this story, giving it realistic elements of people, and settings, and then working in more fantastical things, like odd creatures. The explanation of how Wonderland came into being, and how the two queens came about were creative, and made complete sense. I felt like this book was carefully crafted, and the pacing was smooth and even -- once I started, I was under the spell of this story.
First sentences: Despite the chill morning, Chism dropped his plain tunic on the ground and approached the estate bare-chested. His treasured uniform, which he earned only three weeks before, lay folded carefully in camp. Counting steps came naturally as he walked with palms open and arms outstretched. The men holding the duke for ransom wouldn't be threatened by an unarmed fifteen year old, especially one as slight as Chism. They had no way of knowing they were about to take prisoner one of the most dangerous people in the kingdom.
Thoughts on the cover: Very pretty hat, I must say -- and perfect for Hatta.
Where to find this book: Smashwords --