Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker's Story
Alice has been living at Heart Castle and visiting Julius Monray at the Clock Tower frequently. He doesn't seem to mind too much and he's certainly a nicer person than Peter White, who hounds her day and night. When things get to be too much, Alice asks Julius if she can move in with him, just until her vial is full and she can return home to her world. But when the time comes, will she want to go? Also includes two Crimson Empire short stories.
In all of QuinRose's Alice franchise, popular theory has it that there is but one potential romantic partner who is not utterly insane. This is the story of that man. Julius Monray is the Clockmaker, a solitary man who is part clockmaker and part necromancer as he repairs the clock hearts of Wonderland's denizens and in a fairly literal way keeps the world moving. In this iteration of the first of several Alice stories, Alice in the Country of Hearts, the titular heroine has been living in Heart Castle with Peter White and the Queen of Hearts, but Peter has been getting on her nerves. Afraid to move to the Hatter Mansion or the Amusement Park because they are sworn enemies of the Castle, Alice asks Julius if she can move in with him in the neutral Clock Tower. Julius agrees, although he has reservations, and thus the sweetest of all of the Alice spin-offs begins, Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker's Story.
Like the Clover story Ace of Hearts, The Clockmaker's Story has a smaller cast of characters than the major story arcs, and the main players this time besides hero and heroine are Ace, Boris, and Peter. Two of these three serve as catalysts to Julius and Alice's relationship, with Peter pushing Alice towards Julius (albeit unintentionally) and Boris motivating Julius to stake a claim. All of this leaves plenty of time for Alice and Julius to interact, showing how he slowly finds himself becoming accustomed to having her around and how he grows to enjoy that, not unlike Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” As for Alice, she seems to already have feelings for the clockmaker before she moves in; cohabitation simply offers her the chance to realize it.
One of the nicest parts about The Clockmaker's Story is that none of the physical attentions are forced upon Alice. At one point Julius expresses surprise that she hasn't pushed him away and later her explicitly asks her if she wants him to stop. After the forced kisses and predatory moves by other men in different spin-offs, this is something of a relief. Both Alice and Julius are committed to their relationship, something that we can track by the condition of Alice's medicine vial, and as far as out-and-out romantic mush goes, this is the franchise's winner thus far.
Like its chronological predecessor in English publication, Ace of Hearts, the language used in The Clockmaker's Story is far more slang heavy than in, for example, Circus and Liar's Game. Contemporary slang like “bone” and casual language abound, seeming slightly at odds with the obviously 19th century inspired setting and clothing. Mamenosuke Fujimaru continues to provide the artwork, and while we aren't quite up to her Alice in the Country of Joker level yet, there is still clear improvement from The Bloody Twins. She does still take a fair amount of shortcuts, however, and hands often are drawn as mittens and characters are rarely shown in full body shots. There are also more silly faces than in her other Alice books, although this is quite possibly to offset Julius' stern demeanor. Sensual scenes (they really aren't explicit enough to be called sex scenes) are less explicit than in Cheshire Cat Waltz but moreso than in Ace of Hearts, getting the job down without excessive detail.
Like Ace of Hearts, this volume's main story only takes up about three-quarters of the book before finishing out with two short stories from QuinRose's series Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble. One story pairs heroine Sheila with manservant Marshall, while the other is a second story from the Bryon storyline. Both are fairly harmless and mildly enjoyable, and you will certainly get more out of them if you've read the first volume of Crimson Empire (the second is not out in English as of this writing), but even if you are unfamiliar with Sheila the battle-maid, there's enough plot to keep romance fans entertained. Fujimaru's art is a bit less polished in the stories, mostly in terms of anatomy, which looks a bit off.
People who have been wondering if there are any somewhat sane male options in QuinRose's Wonderful Wonder World should very much enjoy The Clockmaker's Story. Julius is a tsundere in a good way, cloaking his gooey center with a hard shell to nice effect, and his relationship with Alice is sweet and pretty charming. This isn't the most developed Alice story, but it is one of the nicest, which gives it a different kind of charm all its own.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Sweetest Alice story yet with a consensual romance and a nice interpersonal relationship growing out of a less nice one. Julian is not a lunatic, first explicit statement of how Alice can fully commit herself to staying in Wonderland.
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