A huge thank-you to the author for this advanced reader copy of The Looking-Glass Illusion (The Curious Realities #2) by Sara Ella.
The Looking-Glass Illusion is a wonderfully satisfying Wonderland-inspired sequel. Author Sara Ella really outdid herself with this duology!
Have you ever read the first book in a series and you just cross your fingers the sequel will be just as good? That’s what I did when I read The Wonderland Trials. I absolutely loved it and kept hoping I would enjoy The Looking-Glass Illusion just as much. Spoiler alert: I did!
Duologies can be seriously hit-or-miss for me, but The Curious Realities ticked all the boxes. It’s a delightful reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, chock full of adventure, puzzles, adorable romance, and so much more.
The Looking-Glass Illusion hit shelves September 19, 2023 and I highly recommend that you pick up a copy to enjoy right away! Keep on scrolling to read the synopsis and find out exactly what I thought of this YA fantasy release.
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My honest review of The Looking-Glass Illusion by Sara Ella.
Alice is not prepared to face what awaits beyond the Tulgey Wood. When she and the rest of Team Heart enter the fourth and final Wonderland Trial, it’s up to her to lead them to victory. But this Trial is more than a game. If Alice and the others fail to defeat the Jabberwock and reveal the truth about Wonderland, more than points and fame will be lost.
Apart, Chess and Alice scour the eight squares of the Heart Trial in search of memories, truth, and an Ivory King who seems more illusion than reality. Will they learn to lead together to face their greatest fears? Or will they remain pawns in a queen’s game, never truly seeing the Wonderland they’ve come to believe in?
Chess Shire never believed he’d make it this far. Now he’s stuck navigating a Trial he’s seen but doesn’t remember, all while searching for the brother he left behind. Not everything is as black and white as the game that shares his name. And if Alice discovers his deepest regret? Chess might just lose her too.
Step through the looking glass. Slay the Jabberwock. Seek the King.
Content Warnings: (Moderate) Injury/Injury detail, Abandonment, and War, (Minor) Death
It’s often much more challenging for me to write a review for a sequel than it is for me to write a review for the first book in a series. This is because of a few things, namely avoiding spoilers and actually being creative enough to think of reasons to read this that I didn’t already share in the first book’s review. Because of these things, my review for The Looking-Glass Illusion is going to be much shorter and include less detail than my review for The Wonderland Trials. However, please note that the length of the review doesn’t mean I enjoyed this book any less! It was excellent and a truly WONDERful end to the duology (pun very much intended).
Sara Ella must have found a potion for “extra strength creativity” or something, because the way she wove this story and incorporated the magic of Wonderland with gorgeous allegory, tons of action-packed adventure, and a whole lot of mystery makes this series unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Just like the first book, I spent a great deal of this one trying to work out the puzzles before the characters did. Shockingly enough (for me) most of the time I didn’t succeed. I say “for me” because I’m someone who can usually figure out plot twists and untangle knots in a story pretty quickly. It was fun to be surprised along the way, even if I never removed my thinking cap.
This book picked up immediately following where The Wonderland Trials ended. Typically, that’s something that I love, but I did struggle a little bit to find my footing in the story. There weren’t as many callbacks to the plot right off the bat to help me remember what had transpired. If I was binging the books, it would’ve been a lot easier to dive into this one, but since it had been a year since I read the first, it was tough for me to remember what had transpired without immediate references. However, as the story went on, enough bits and pieces came back to me to help me grasp what was going on and recall why I liked certain characters and why I should be wary of others.
I definitely missed the fact that this was going to be a duology, so as the plot began to wrap up toward the end, I was initially really confused. Why was everything coming together if there were more books coming? But once I realized what was happening, I was thankful for the way the book ended! Sometimes with duologies, it can be really dissatisfying, either feeling as though there were plot holes or open-endings, or even feeling like things were too perfectly tied up with a bow. The Looking-Glass Illusion‘s ending reminded me a little of a workout wind-down: it was all sorts of high-energy adventure, but it slowed down towards the last quarter of the book to let you accept what was happening and find closure (even if there were a few “hmmm I wonder what happened there?” moments). I wholeheartedly appreciated knowing where our main characters ended up while simultaneously being given the chance to WONDER what might happen next for them.
Once again, I have to give Sara major props for creating a series that transcends an age bracket. This story felt suitable for middle-grade readers, young adults, and adults. It’s unique, adventurous, and so much fun. Oh, and let’s not forget the absolutely breathtaking cover! I don’t think I can pick whether I love the first or second’s cover more–they’re both beyond gorgeous and definitely something that would make me want to cover-buy (if I was that kind of reader). So, whether the cover, the Wonderland-inspired story, or this review draws you to the series, I sure hope you pick it up and read it soon!