You may recall I #fangirled like a champ about Deep End of the Sea, Heather Lyon’s amazing take on the legend of Medusa. She turns the Greek myth on its ear, offering another version of events – and it is SO SO SO SO GOOD. If you enjoy a fresh take on mythology and romance, this is the book for you.
In The Collectors’ Society, the author does it again: portraying well known characters in a new light. Years after her adventures in Wonderland, Alice (yes, THAT Alice) is living in England, trying to be a normal adult despite the madness of her youth. Life, however, has other plans for her, and through a series of events she is the latest recruit in The Collectors’ Society. This group is charged with saving literary characters and their timelines from villains successfully deleting famous novels.
Early on in the book, Alice finds herself in modern day New York City sitting at a conference table with several characters from classic literature: Mary from The Secret Garden, Wendy Darling from Peter Pan, Jack Dawson from Oliver Twist, Mr. Holgrove from House of the Seven Gables, Huckleberry Finn, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Jr. and the leader of the group: Abraham Van Brunt. They bring her up to speed about their time sensitive mission; bad guys are erasing books and Alice in Wonderland is next on their list. In order to save the world she left behind, she must help the Society locate an artifact from her book (which she left behind in Wonderland).
Naturally, Alice is overwhelmed by many things: culture shock (an 1880’s character seeing iPhones, laptops, elevators, GPS), the mission (stop literary classics from disappearing), magic doorways (allowing members to time travel to fictional settings), and her fierce attraction to Huckleberry Finn (he is all grown up too). But most shocking of all is the knowledge that she is a fictional character crafted by Lewis Carroll. Through her orientation at the Society, she learns that each of her new teammates had a similar identity crisis, and it is through new friendships and purpose Alice finds strength.
Not that she wasn’t already one of the strongest, wittiest, most amazing heroines I have enjoyed getting to know in a while. Her childhood adventures in Wonderland and her return from madness shaped Alice into a fearless leader, and once she accepts her new fate, she embraces the mission. After she gets a handle of life in NYC, she must return to Wonderland. Mary, Victor and Finn join her, and this time it is her partners experiencing culture shock. It is every bit as magical as depicted in Lewis’ novels, with several surprises by Lyons added to the mix. While locating the artifact for the Society, the team faces dangerous enemies who are not at all pleased that Alice has returned to Wonderland. In addition to surviving the journey and completing the mission, Alice must come face to face with the best parts of the madness she left behind. She must reconcile her past with the hope she has for a happy future, and it is wonderful experiencing the curious child we all know make such difficult, mature decisions.
This is SUCH a great story! Heather Lyons has done a tremendous job of weaving classic literature, epic fantasy and contemporary romance. It is incredibly entertaining and a very impressive feat. My favorite parts involved the swoon-worthy romance between Alice and Huckleberry Finn. I wish this author only the best and look forward to reviewing Book 2 in The Collectors’ Society Series: The Hidden Library in early March. – kris