Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet On My Heart
Alice is suddenly torn from her home in Heart Castle in the Country of Clover and dropped into a strange new land – the Country of Diamonds. Unlike her previous moves, this one has displaced her in time, and in Diamonds no one remembers her and some of them – specifically Ace, Nightmare, and Blood – are younger than she's used to. Staying in a much different Hatter Mansion than she's ever been in before, Alice must adjust to a foreign world once again...and maybe it will finally be the one that feels like home.
Are you sick of the seemingly endless parade of Alice in the Country of ______ books yet? This may be the rejuvenation that your flagging interest in the franchise needs. The first English language translation of a novelization of QuinRose's otome game empire, Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet On My Heart essentially reboots the story by displacing Alice once again. While we have seen her travel to other countries in Wonderland, she has always had some level of comfort in her new land: for example, Julius may be gone, but she finds solace in Ace or Boris and meets new people like Gray or Nightmare. She's unsettled, but she has a safe base from which to explore. Now, however, that rug has been pulled completely out from under her. The book opens with a short manga showing Alice once again falling with Peter...but then Peter vanishes and when she reorients herself, she is all alone. Following the sound of voices, she finds the Hatters outside their mansion...but there's something off. The Twins seem all right, albeit in their adult forms, but Elliot is acting oddly and Blood looks somehow younger and more vulnerable. When she approaches them, Elliot pulls a gun on her and all of them deny knowing her. In the end, Alice is unceremoniously tossed in a dungeon.
This is pretty much the harshest introduction to Wonderland that poor Alice has had to face. She's lost, confused, and to make matters worse, all of her friends keep threatening to kill her. Blood, curious as to why she knows his name, does relent and allow her to become a guest in the mansion, giving her the position of librarian and setting her to cleaning up the research library. As you might reasonably suspect, he is the romantic route for this novel, and his lack of icy composure makes it a different enough love story that even if you've read all of the previous Blood storylines this still feels fresh. This Blood doesn't know how to hide his interest in Alice, giving the book a much more traditional romance novel feel. Alice is really only divided between Blood and new character Jericho Bermuda, the mysterious Gravekeeper who represents the Dodo in Lewis Carroll's original novel. Jericho is a fascinating character – first of all, why is there a graveyard if all dead people are “reborn” once their clock-hearts are fixed. Is it for all of the Outsiders who have wandered in over the years? He also keeps watch over the Art Museum, which is filled with magical living paintings, and he runs a rival mafia group. More troubling, everyone tells Alice that he's already dead. All of this is also interesting in that the Dodo was meant to be Lewis Carroll himself, who had a stutter – his real last name was “Dodgson.” Jericho also plays a bit of a white knight role when Alice is in need of someone to listen to her or, in a couple of cases, to save her from physical danger, bringing to mind the character intended to represent the author in Through the Looking-Glass is the White Knight.
All in all, Bet on My Heart reads like a light romance novel more than any of the manga versions, with the possible exception of Knight's Knowledge. This is in large part due to the fact that Alice is not thinking about her sister Lorina or her first love, the tutor who looked like Blood. She is at sea, yes, but that draws her more to this new Blood, who has many of the qualities that attracted her to the original without the cynicism. It takes her a while to be able to admit it, but we readers can see where the wind is blowing almost immediately. While there are no sex scenes, there is plenty of talk about roaming hands and desire, keeping the novel on the same level as the manga volumes.
There are plenty of new and old characters – along with Jericho there is Sydney Black, Peter White's replacement, and the Queen of Diamonds, Crysta Snowpigeon, but neither of them get any sort of meaningful development. Most of the fan-favorites (apart from Peter, Vivaldi, and Gowland) put in a brief appearance, with Elliot and the Twins getting the most attention. They and Jericho are the only ones apart from the leads to get any sort of illustration, and Nana Fumitsuki's art is much more delicate and traditionally shoujo styled than any we have seen thus far. It makes Alice look a little too innocent, but otherwise is very pleasant to look at.
The translation reads very smoothly at is at a middle grade/early YA level. The only real fly in the ointment here is that the manga pages are not reversed, but are printed in Western order, requiring some work to read both the prologue and the epilogue. Readers will notice that Sydney does not speak in rhyme as Peter does, further setting the two up as opposites. Author Sana Shirakawa admits in the afterward that the novel is intended to pique your interest in the game, and that task is very well accomplished – for all we now know about Blood and the Hatters, our palates have been but whetted for more information about this totally different new world Alice has gone to. Here's hoping we get another chance to go down this particular rabbit hole.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ +: Interesting new world, novel reads very easily. Blood is much more human and Jericho is kind of fascinating.
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