The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella (The Curious Realities; 1)

Book Blurb:

Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.

All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.

Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.

The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.

I received this eARC for free from the publisher. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.

Erin’s Review:

The Wonderland Trials is Alice in Wonderland meets the Inheritance Games and a round of Among Us. It is a fun, wacky, whimsical adventure that draws deeply from the original story but with a surprising new mystery that demands you fall down the rabbit hole until you hit the bottom.

“Sometimes, the best path is not the obvious one.”

Sara Ella is a master wordsmith, putting together the most clever lines that make you want to read every passage out-loud. The names are all very clever, clearly indicting who each character is without being silly. Her writing and world building is so vividly visual that I was easily lost in my own imagination as I read! I could definitely see this series turned into a tv show or animated adventure!

“Heart will always trump knowledge.”

Chess and Alice are perfectly complimented, balancing each other out and bringing the other up. I love how we got to see more of their history together to lay a groundwork for their possible future, and it made me really root for them. Us serious girls often need a boy who helps us to see the world upside-down, as Chess does for his Ace. The relationship between them is so realistically and genuinely developed.

“Love has a way of driving out fear.”

The gaslighting is so hardcore by Charlotte it made me angry, but in a way that made me root for Alice so hard to learn the truth! And made each shocking twist that followed very satisfying. While I completely understand why Alice has a hard time trusting anyone, I was frustrated at how easily she assumed betrayal in her friends. But I suppose that was a bit convicting too: how easily we suspect the worst in other rather than give them a chance to explain, and the grace to believe them. Madi, Alice, and Chess all set good examples of what it means to be hurt by assumption, or lack of explanation, and how to forgive and move forward.

“It means you’re so busy thinking everyone is against you, you’ve forgotten who is for you. We’re a team, remember? However we come out of this, we will do it together.”

The twists with a certain queen were my favorites to untangle. Certainly, the twists (and Chess) were the best part of this story! I literally got shivers several times when big reveals were made. While the mystery and history are confusing at times, it is that very befuddled nature that stays so true to the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, where nothing makes sense until you let go of sense and start believing in impossible things instead. Plus, it was especially satisfying when the pieces all fall into place and you get that “ah-ha!” moment.

“Some lines are meant to be crossed. Some doors are meant to be unlocked.”

The only drawbacks were very minor, namely the extremely abrupt ending (and that I now have to wait for book two!), and Alice never feels guilt or regret about pickpocketing (stealing) in the beginning of the story, which may not be a desirable trait for younger readers.

All in all, I have to give The Wonderland Trials 5 stars! The more I read this book, the more I couldn’t put it down! I especially appreciated how Sara Ella managed to weave in Biblical truth in such an organic way that it truly belonged in the story. I loved the themes of forgiveness, faith, and truth, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next! If you love a good winding, whimsical mystery, definitely read The Wonderland Trials!


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