Written by Karen Olson Smith
“Queen of Hearts” by Colleen Oakes is a tangy mix of the personalities from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” with small tastes from the theater production of Wicked. Sprinkled in are shadowy semblances of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” along with noticeable flavors of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
As the story unfolds, the evil rising in the book’s setting of Wonderland captivates the reader as strongly as the story’s protagonist, Dinah, is held captive by her early lack of confidence. Dinah is introduced as a clumsy and timid child, one who fears her father, the mighty King of Hearts who feels nothing but disdain toward his daughter. Dinah longs for his love and attention. Her world begins to further unravel when her father introduces another daughter. Dinah’s newly discovered half-sibling, Vittiore, is a golden child yet a person Dinah despises, not only because Vittiore has her father’s favor, but because her presence reveals her father’s betrayal of her mother years earlier. Dinah is next in line for her father’s throne since the seat was left vacant by her mother’s death and because her older brother, Charles, is “mad as a hatter,” lost in his own reality. Soon, mysterious happenings relating to Dinah’s father, and clues of such, grow her confidence to act as she comes to understand that her father is an evil man who is hungry for power. Dinah quickly realizes that she must flee the kingdom in order to survive her father’s murderous intent. Of course, Oakes gives Dinah has a love interest. Wardley is a handsome young man, a fearsome warrior who is training to be the next commander of the Heart Cards assigned to protect the royal family and palace. Dinah has long adored Wardley, but will he return Dinah’s affections? Readers are left to ponder.
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