Before we start I would like to point out that I did not know what a harem was until I started writing this post. I had to Google it and I’ve decided that it’s not my favourite word and it does not change my opinion of this book.
So I saw a post in a group I’m in on Facebook asking for Alice in Wonderland retellings and, given how much I usually enjoy retellings, I jumped in for the most highly recommended one without thinking of what I was getting into. Oh. Dear. God.
Alison’s Adventures in Underland by C.M. Stunich was that book and I thought that I was in for a dark retelling of the story I know and love and I suppose in a way I was right. But in so many ways I was wrong. This book is not suitable for young readers and it is most definitely NSFW.
Alison’s Adventures in Underland follows the story of Alison, a girl whose dad has clocked out, whose sister who’s only interested in the next high School party, whose mum is in prison, and whose brother is dead. She’s had a hard time of it and it’s only about to get a hell of a lot fucking harder. Especially when she watches her crush get shot in the head, at a party she’s dragged along to by her sister, by a man with rabbit ears. Deciding that she wasn’t just about to let a murderer run free, she pursuits him and tumbles straight down, you guessed it, a rabbit hole.
She finds herself in Underland, a Wonderland turned sour by wild magic and discovers that everyone thinks she’s the Alice, the Alice who is going to save their world. Only she has no idea what’s going on or why the Wonderland from her books is in such a fucking state. Welcome to Underland, a world of blood, violence and sex and all the strange variations of Lewis Carrol’s original characters (as if they weren’t weird enough already).
Now this here would have provided a plotline we could work with. This could have been a pretty interesting story of a dark Wonderland with all the blood and violence that wasn’t in the original version.
However. That is not the case.
Alison meets Tee and Dee (this book’s take on Tweedledee and Tweedledum) in the place of the EAT ME cake and the DRINK ME potion and learns that they gifts for the Alice and that they are there to escort her to the King of Hearts. Only, to grow smaller she has to drink Tee and eat Dee. Let your mind wander far, far into the gutter and you’ll understand what is meant by that. All the sexual innuendos intended. And this is all in the first chapter.
“Instead, when I pull it back, there’s a man sitting on a red chaise lounge, leaning back and smiling wickedly at me. Around his neck, there’s a tag that says DRINK ME. “Oh, heeeell no,” I say, backing up suddenly, until my feet crunch over the shards of broken glass. Thank God I decided to wear combat boots instead of the awful heels my sister’d picked out for me. “What’s the matter?” the boy asks, tilting his head to the side and letting the corner of his lip twist up in a smirk. “You’re not thirsty?”
So the three set off the long way round to meet the King of Hearts because Alison won’t eat or drink either of her new travelling companions. But here is the problem with Underland- they’re all men, at least there are very few women left, and all the men want to sleep with any women they encounter. Hence the harem part of the title because Alison finds that she is attracted to all of her travelling companions throughout the book and is only a matter of time before she starts sleeping with them.
Now I do enjoy a good bit of smut, but with some degree of class to it. This is just crude, it’s not enjoyable especially when she’s talking about “beautiful cocks” in such a carefree manner like she’s chatting about the weather. In fact, it was so bad I read a few lines to my partner and now he thinks I’m into some weird stuff. There is so much swearing that it just became overkill very quickly. My mouth isn’t exactly clean, but damn this book uses the word ‘fuck’ or it’s variations over 200 times. I’m from Glasgow and it’s one of our favourite words and even I’m shocked.
There was potential for this book. The idea was there along with a fairly interesting plot, especially towards the end of the first book because things started to get more interesting. But it is so hard to get past the mockery that this book makes of the original Alice in Wonderland and all the damn sex. The world building is enjoyable too, with its dark twist on the original. The characters are interesting, some more complex than others and I would like to see where the plot goes and how the characters develop further.
On the upside though, it is a very cool looking book. I really enjoy the cover and style the book uses for its chapter headings. Very Alice in Wonderland, indeed.
However, I don’t think I’ll be continuing with this series. Honestly, I’m still shocked that I made it through the first book.
Until next time.
Alison’s Adventures in Underland (Harem of Hearts #1) by C.M. Stunich