Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz
In this version of QuinRose's Alice tale, Alice has been living and working at the Amusement Park rather than the Clock Tower or Hatter Mansion. She's pretty happy there, and so is understandably upset when the land shifts and her home disappears. Thrown out of the Country of Hearts, Alice finds herself in the Country of Clover and feels all at sea once more. Good thing Boris the Cheshire Cat is there to help her out...
In this third version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as envisioned by otome game maker QuinRose, Alice has elected to stay in Wonderland despite not having chosen a mate and opted to live and work with Gowland at the Amusement Park. She's feeling pretty well adapted to the wacky world of Wonderland, amorous men included, but is sent right back to where she started when she wakes up one morning to find that the door to her room leads to a forest. Slightly reminiscent of Anne Logston's fantasy novel Guardian's Key, the forest is filled with different doors leading to different places, and only Boris, the Cheshire Cat, can really make them work to his advantage. Alice meets Ace, who is, of course, lost, and he explains to her that the land has moved, shifting the setting from the Country of Hearts to the Country of Clover, a place where the Clock Tower and, more importantly, the Amusement Park do not exist. Alice has been ejected from the Park and now must find her way in this strange new place.
This is, as might be expected, very similar to the set up for the previous stand-alone volume in the Alice in the Country of Clover series, The Bloody Twins. In that book, however, Alice was already living at the Hatter Mansion, making for a more streamlined story. Here Alice is homeless and, while not entirely friendless, at least feeling that way. This is a significant improvement in terms of allowing the romance between Alice and Boris to develop, as it allows for a more natural progression rather than the slightly forced feeling in the previous volume. That is not to say that this is a sweet and tender love story, however. While less creepy in terms of the main romance than The Bloody Twins, there is still a very aggressive element to the way the males interact with our heroine, with Blood specifically taking a giant step into the domineering category. Within the first chapter Alice has had her breasts groped by two different men, and most of the characters who are not Boris have a very dark sexual edge to them, or in the case of Ace, simply an ominous one. While Boris is still very clearly sexually attracted to Alice, his actions are slightly less in the range of “icky” than, for example, Blood. He will, however, be too aggressive for some readers, although he is still far from the standard set by, for example, Mayu Shinjo.
Alice herself feels a little more vulnerable this time around, even moreso than in the first volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts. She is still tough talking and standing up for herself, but we see her indulging in some different emotions as well, with the end of the main story (the last chapter of the volume is a side story) forcing her to contemplate her actions much earlier than in Soumei Hoshino's iteration of the story. This may allow for a deeper emotional content as Cheshire Cat Waltz progresses, giving it some real potential that other versions of the tale lacked.
You will have noticed many comparisons with other books in the Alice franchise, and that is in large part because while you can read this without having read the others, it is not especially recommended. Seven Seas has done readers a service in providing (translating?) the franchise explanations in the beginning of the book, but readers really will get more out of the story and the characters if you've read the other seven available volumes.
Mamenosuke Fujimaru continues to do a fine, if somewhat unremarkable, job with the illustrations. Alice's skirt is a little shorter this time around and it is clear that Disney was a bigger influence than Tenniel's illustrations, but the sense of Wonderland is there, even if backgrounds tend to be scarce. The color pages are richly done, and once again kudos to Seven Seas for including them.
The first volume of Cheshire Cat Waltz is a promising one, looking to be one of better developed stories in the English translated version of QuinRose's franchise so far. While it is more forceful than sweet, the romance is slightly less disturbing than that of its predecessor in the Country of Clover series, and fans of the franchise should find plenty to enjoy. This Alice may not have the literary cred of her progenitor, but she's still a lot of fun to read about.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Potential for a more developed romance than previous incarnations, very nice presentation by Seven Seas. The forest of doors looks really neat.
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