Alice Moreau was eleven years old when she first journeyed to Wonderland. But, when she tried to tell her father Dr. Philippe Moreau of it, he dismissed it as a child’s folly. Since that time, Alice, now 18, has made numerous journeys there and discovered that the woods behind her home are host not only to the passage there, but to many other worlds, as well.
But, as her father and his assistant Montgomery Doolittle (son of the famous Dr. Doolittle) continue their gruesome research into animal hybrids for a mysterious benefactor from Oz who seeks an army of flying monkeys, Alice receives word from her friend Hotoe (the White Rabbit) of a dangerous, new creature entering the Weirding Willows, an unstoppable force for which they need her assistance.
To tell any more would ruin much of the delicious story-weaving that Elliott has done in this work. His storytelling moves deftly, hitting the ground at a fast pace, but delivering just enough exposition to keep a reader in tow without slowing down his tale. He is able to merge the various Victorian worlds into a wild, limitless sandbox in which he plays gleefully, while managing to still make the story his own. And, the weight of history that the characters bring with them only serves to make his creation that much richer. This is a brilliant, rich stew of a tale, gathering together some of the most famous fantasy and fairytale characters together and creating something new and exciting, giving the reader a chance to explore the stories they know in a new way.
Of course, The Weirding Willows can’t help but bear comparisons to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which also took characters from the literature of that era and put them together into new stories, and this shares much of that conceit. But, like Moore, you can’t help but know that Elliott loves the sources and pays them the respect they deserve while still making his concept fresh and new. The literary references make for a fun and enjoyable game, as well, and Elliott provides references for the sources for the characters in case some aren’t as familiar as others.
Bagenda and Basri’s artwork is lush and beautiful, the characters strong and angularly distinctive, sharp and painterly and a delight to follow. The beautiful layout and colors serve to highlight and unite the different respective characters into Elliot’s world vision, and with the tale, make a book that is nigh impossible for any literature lover to put down.
VERDICT: FIVE glowing portals to Otherwheres out of FIVE