80-coverFans of QuinRose’s Alice books will be excited to see a whole new world opening up to our heroine. All the characters from Country of Hearts and Country of Clover return in this series, along with new faces, and new dangers.

Teenager Alice Liddell began her adventures in the Country of Hearts, a bizarre and dangerous version of Wonderland. Everybody who’s anybody in Hearts—from the histrionic Queen to the Hatter mafia family—is heavily armed, and they’re all in love with Alice. Several related manga series, all based on Japanese romance computer games, take place in Hearts or the neighboring Country of Clover. Alice finds herself in Clover when Hearts moves, undergoing a disorienting change in landscape. Most of the characters come along for the ride, but a few are left behind in Hearts, replaced by new people in Clover. In this new series, the world has shifted again, introducing something called April Season.

In April Season, all of the people from Hearts and Clover coexist, but at a price. The world is unstable: spring, summer, fall, and winter are happening simultaneously in adjacent areas. In order to travel between them, Alice must visit the Circus, which appeared when April Season began. There, she must play a card game with the enigmatic Joker who can allow her to pass between the seasons. But sometimes when Alice visits Joker, she finds herself wandering in a creepy prison. What is this place and what is its connection to the life Alice left behind when the White Rabbit first brought her to Hearts?

Many of QuinRose’s Alice books focus on one particular romantic relationship, pairing Alice with the Hatter or the anthropomorphic Cheshire Cat, for instance. Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game is a continuing series, but in these first four volumes, a single romantic attachment hasn’t become clear. Alice seems most attracted to the Hatter, but she feels ambivalent because some of that attraction is based on his resemblance to a former love from her old world. She also entertains some flirtation from the Cheshire Cat and others. Initially determined not to fall in love after her old flame broke her heart, Alice seems to be changing her mind on the subject.

Like the Hearts and Clover books, this series includes a lot of gunfights—usually with no casualties—and a lot of flirtation. While there’s no sex or nudity in these first four volumes (only a couple of kisses), there is a lot of innuendo, and some of Alice’s suitors can be pushy in a way that might make some readers uncomfortable. On the other hand, much of the flirting is funny and occasionally it’s even sweet.

The art features the same pretty elements as the other Alice books: slender, elegant characters in elaborate outfits, plus lots of fun fantasy scenery. Roses, masks, and other dramatic props abound, and even the fight scenes are as artful as dances. However, this series also introduces whimsical new components. In addition to Joker and his Circus, April Season brings various holiday festivals that haven’t appeared in the Alice series before: Halloween! Valentine’s Day! A snow festival!

Fans of Hearts and Clover will enjoy this weird, madcap mish-mash of the two worlds. And it’s not all fluff: the dark undercurrent of Joker’s prison and Alice’s repressed memories add tension to the story. Circus and Liar’s Game adds depth and new amusements to QuinRose’s Wonderland.

Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, vols. 1-4
by QuinRose
Art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781937867157
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781937867256
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781937867683
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781626920019
Seven Seas, 2013-2014
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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