“Alice Will” by Ashley Chappell

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Alice Will” by Ashley ChappellAlice Will by Ashley Chappell
Series: Dreams of Chaos #1
Published: 2012 by Center One
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Alice Will by Ashley Chappell is the story of a 14-year-old demigod named Trotter who is just coming into her powers.  She’s going through an awkward preteen age, and that means she’s pretty bad at magic.  She can’t even get the hang of using it to make her hair behave.  Trotter has a talking cat named Prowler who serves as her guardian.  Prowler is a noble kitty who has a good heart and loves seafood.  One day Trotter does something really amazing with magic and makes an item from the past show up.  That’s the moment that the apocalypse starts.  People think it’s her, but it’s really not.

You see, this is also the story of Alice.  Alice is just a little kid, and she’s an indentured servant at an inn.  She’s starved and mistreated there, and she dreams of a better life.  Alice is powerful too, but she doesn’t know it.  She thinks she’s completely human.  Then she starts realizing by accident that her wishes and desires can manifest and become reality.  She starts out trying to improve her life, and like any six year old, she doesn’t realize that her actions have consequences.  Her powers have been noticed by a sadistic god named Laramak who was imprisoned by Trotter’s father a long time ago after doing a lot of terrible things.  Laramak sees Alice’s naivete as an opportunity for him to regain his powers and rule/destroy what’s left of the world.

Trotter is in a unique position to stop Laramak and save Alice (and the world).  Part of the lore in Alice Will is that the gods had a war, and then they went through a period where they kept changing reality all the time.  They saw life as interchangeable, and so it really didn’t bother them if they turned a human into a unicorn or threw people to all corners of creation, erasing and reshaping their existences.  Of course, anyone living through that time would have had major problems.  After the war ended, the gods decided that it would be better for everyone if they kept to their own realm, and let the humans live their own lives and make their own mistakes without interference.  Alice and Laramak are in the human world.  As a demigod, Trotter isn’t confined to either.

Sounds like an interesting premise, right?

And yet, I had a difficult time getting into the story, even though I came around somewhat by the end.  It wasn’t that there was any one major thing that was wrong with the book, but rather a lot of little things that bugged me and could have been fixed with another round or two of edits.  Take, for instance, an anachronistic Dr. Seuss reference.  Alice Will is a completely different world than our own, so there should be no Dr. Seuss.  And then there’s the running motif that the gods have no imagination, but then we see the gods crafting some rather creative monstrosities.

Alice Will has a lot of humor, but I didn’t think a lot of the jokes were funny.  Now, that’s probably just me being weird, because I couldn’t get into Good Omens either and everyone tells me that that book is hilarious.  I told my boyfriend that I was having a hard time getting the jokes, and he asked me tongue-in-cheek if maybe the real problem is that I’m a grumpy old lady at heart.  There’s a fair chance that his assumption was accurate.

But as the book progressed, I started to get it.  There were several parts of Alice Will that made me silently chuckle.  Ursula and her teddy bears are a good example.  When gods lose their worshipers, they fade away into something less than what they once were.  Ursula was once a warrior goddess, but as people forgot the bulk of her story, she instead became the goddess of bears.  Cute stuffed ones, apparently.

And I did enjoy many of Chappell’s anecdotes about the nature of stories/legends/gods/etc.  Like this part, where Prowler is explaining to Trotter why the gods are so dangerous, even though they seem like nice people:

“They have no frame of reference for life!  They live forever and can’t die.  Therefore, they have no fear of death.  Just because they created something that can die doesn’t mean they understand the concept of death at all.  That’s what makes them so dangerous.  They don’t actually intend to do anything outright evil, even though it seems that way.”

And for all that I’ve talked about Trotter, it was Alice’s story that impressed me the most.  Alice could be Cosette from Les Mis, or Cinderella, or Sara Crewe from A Little Princess.  She’s the typical abused yet virtuous orphan girl.  And yet, Alice isn’t waiting for a rescue.  Instead of just going along with the hand fate dealt her, she changes the face of reality, and that’s pretty awesome.

In retrospect, I think my real problem with the book was that the Trotter/Prowler combo reminded me a bit too much of Sailor Moon.

I’m a bit older than the target audience for Alice Will, which is YA/middle grade, and some of the jokes that I didn’t find as funny were probably much more suited to a different age group.  I’d encourage anyone who is considering reading the book to look around at other reviews, because the reader response to this book has been overwhelmingly positive.

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

15 comments

  1. I’m wondering if I would have picked up on the Dr. Seuss connection. I would like to hope I would. I was reading a fantasy novel recently (can’t remember which at the moment)and the author did this amazing job worldbuilding and then at the end, mentioned that one of the characters sat down on a couch and placed his cup on the coffee table. That bugged me. Coffee table in a fantasy world?

    1. The part that would bother me would be the coffee more than the table. Then again, I was at a Brandon Sanderson signing/event last night and one of the things he mentioned was that in epic fantasy nobody ever seems to wear socks, and that lots of mundane details get left out.

  2. Hi Grace, and thank you so much for the review! I’m always fascinated by the connections that readers make to Alice, possibly more than with any other character in the book. When I modeled her I had Lewis Carroll’s Alice Liddell in mind for her inner strength, curiosity, and powerful optimism, but her upbringing was definitely inspired by Cosette. I haven’t heard the Sailor Moon reference before, so that one is totally new – I’ve never seen it before (anime has never been my thing) but now I think I need to watch it! And I do have a confession to make: Good Omens is one of my favorite books, and both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are two of my favorite authors and inspirations. I think I should put a disclaimer in the front that states “If Good Omens isn’t for you, this one probably isn’t either.” 😉

    Thank you again so very much for the time you put into this review – it is very insightful and much appreciated!

    1. I’m a huge fan of Lewis Carroll and always appreciate connections to him. I also saw a connection between the gods’ realm and Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Class; both had similar styles and drew heavily on the absurd. Ursula would have fit right into Carroll’s world. 🙂

        1. Yay! Lewis Carroll for the win!

          The teddy cats were perfect; they were simultaneously terrifying and adorable. They make you realize just how deranged Ursula has become and what could happen to you if you step out of line, but they’re also cute and fluffy. 🙂

          Also, completely unrelated, but it’s super cool that you work at NASA.

          1. LOL! Thanks, Grace – I wish I could say working at NASA was like it’s made out to be in the movies, but these days we’re spending most of our time wondering which program they’ll cut next. I’m afraid one day they’ll rename us “The Agency that formerly went to space.” Booooo! :*-(

            1. Haha I know the feeling. I worked for the federal government for several years before jumping ship to nonprofits. 😛

              Hopefully the budget situation improves.