Teenager Alice Liddell recently found herself stranded in the Country of Hearts, which is Wonderland with two important twists: nearly everyone is armed and trigger-happy, and all of them are in love with Alice. Still, Alice had begun to get used to Hearts—just in time to wake up somewhere else. Most of her friends from Hearts are here, and they assure her that magical shifts like this are normal. They’re now in the Country of Clover, with a different landscape and different rules, and some of Alice’s friends from Hearts didn’t make the move with her.
Back in Hearts, Alice spent a lot of time with the clockmaker Julius. Julius is cranky and deeply introverted, but Alice still counts him as a friend, as does the whimsical knight Ace from Hearts Castle. Doing side work for Julius was Ace’s only escape from his regular job, which he hates, so Alice is concerned when she and Ace make the move to Clover while Julius is left behind in Hearts. But strangely, Ace seems more cheerful than ever and he’s a lot more attached to Alice…
QuinRose has created many series of Alice manga with different plotlines. All are based on Japanese computer games that focus on romance between Alice and the player’s choice of handsome Wonderland suitors. The QuinRose manga mimics this experience by providing alternate storylines for various romantic interests. Ace of Hearts is a stand-alone volume in which Alice is paired with Ace, a carefree but dangerous knight. Outdoorsy and cheerful with a flirtatious streak, Ace can be hard to read when it comes to serious emotions. He can also be scary. He’s definitely interested in Alice, but he doesn’t always seem sure whether he wants to date her or kill her, and he’ll say as much with a smile on his face.
Alice and Ace’s romance takes up a little over two-thirds of this volume. The rest is occupied by a long preview for Crimson Empire, another QuinRose manga based on a different relationship-centric computer game, and a shorter preview for Zero’s Familiar. The art in Ace of Hearts is elegant and pretty, as it is in all of QuinRose’s Alice manga series. Characters are emphasized, their postures and expressions taking center stage. This leaves little room for background detail, but the scenery that does appear matches the characters in style. The art changes in the previews at the end: Crimson Empire feels less delicate and more solid, while Zero’s Familiar has a style best described as “chibi Harry Potter characters.”
Ace of Hearts is a lighthearted romance with humorous blunders and misunderstandings that bring out a silly side. It includes less sex and violence than some of QuinRose’s other Alice manga series; both are implied, but neither is shown explicitly or contemplated at length. Crimson Empire shows even less, but implies more, at least when it comes to sex; an entire chapter of the preview is about the protagonist’s pregnancy scare. Even in such a short space, Ace of Hearts also keeps readers aware of the violence endemic to this version of Wonderland. Alice’s life is threatened more than once, and she is caught in the crossfire of other characters’ deadly spats.
Readers who like some action with their romance (or some romance with their action) will likely enjoy this story and the other Alice manga. Fans of Ace in particular may also like the ongoing QuinRose series Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight’s Knowledge, which features the same pairing as this stand-alone volume.
Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts
Art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru
Seven Seas, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)