The Wonderland of The Looking Glass Wars is full of places that perhaps you know from Lewis Carroll’s (sanitized) Alice In Wonderland. However, the truth behind the fiction is far more epic, beautiful, and at times dangerous.
Here are but a few of the highlights a Wonderverse traveler would see upon stepping through the looking glass:
Unlike the Pool of Tears as described by Lewis Carroll, “Alice” (Alyss) did not cry this body of water alone. A swirling, luminescent lake of water, a portal connecting Wonderland to other worlds (notably Earth), and the means by which Hatter Madigan and seven-year-old Princess Alyss escape Redd Heart’s (the Red Queen’s) murderous intentions.
At the start of The Looking Glass Wars, no one who has entered the pool has ever returned. Loved ones of Wonderlanders who’ve vanished into its depths sometimes stand on an overlooking cliff, mourning, letting their tears drop into the water; hence the name.
On Earth, the portal manifests as puddles where no puddles should be, such as in a desert. Though the Pool of Tears is the only portal entry/exit point in Wonderland, there are numerous puddles where no puddles should be on Earth providing access.
Essentially, the pool is an open channel through which Wonderland’s most dangerous elements can, at any time, intrude upon the already treacherous world of Victorian England and beyond.
This structure is to Wonderland what the Red Keep was to King’s Landing. The House of Cards is center of military and political wheeling and dealing in the Queendom. From here Card Soldiers (no, not the stick figures with playing cards for bodies in the Disney adaptation) are dealt into battle— a source of might that Redd abuses at every turn during her reign to inflict her tyrannical whims.
The Suit Families, powerful houses that rule over Wonderland, each retain presence in the House of Cards— or at least they did until Redd came to power and announced that she needed no advisors, only loyal obedient subjects. While the Suit Families kept their heads by playing along, not all are so loyal to the wicked despot. The halls of the House of Cards echo with schemes and deceptions, feeding into The Queen of Heart’s paranoia.
The training campus of Wonderland’s elite security force, where those born to protect the queendom are molded into spies, assassins, and bodyguards.
Its graduates—the famed Hatter Madigan (perhaps you know him as The Mad Hatter) and his brother Dalton among them—are called Milliners on account of the hats they wear, which serve as their most potent weapons and allies in combat.
The Millinery, complete with training fields and dormitories, sits within the capital city of Wondertropolis. Its buildings and outer wall are constructed largely of silk from the queendom’s caterpillar-oracles, each color of which has certain properties that protect students from outside threats. (The Blue Caterpillar of Lewis Carroll’s creation makes more smoke than thread—a stark difference between the fiction and truth of the story Alyss told him.)
The building in which classes are held, instilling the Milliner ethic (stoicism, duty above all else), is shaped like a top hat. The campus’s state-of-the-art training arena, known as the HATBOX (Holographic and Transmutative Base of Xtremecombat), is comparable to Star Trek’s Holodeck . . . but, with all due respect, it’s cooler. (For more on this amazing thread-tech, read Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the HATBOX)
A landscape of giant mushrooms nestled within a ring of twilight-blue mountains, home to Wonderland’s caterpillar-oracles. No two mushrooms are alike, and what with the play of light on their caps and the many-hued shadows cast on the valley floor, visitors are inevitably greeted with a sight of impressive kaleidoscopic brilliance.
Should a visitor be remarkable enough for the caterpillar council to reveal itself, she would see six caterpillars nearly the size of jabberwocky (large!), their bodies coiled beneath them as they smoked from the same ancient hookah. Each of them would be sitting on a mushroom as distinct in color as himself: red, orange, green, blue and violet.
Redd, concerned that the caterpillars might breed dissent with their predictions, tries to do away with them when she first takes control of Wonderland. But every time she attacks, they see her coming and vanish like smoke. So she exercises her rage on their beloved valley, and now its colors, which were once like the sprouting of renewed hope, are muted, scraped, marred. Mushroom stalks everywhere are hacked, and butchered caps litter the dank ground.
The once magical place is a fungal wasteland, as it will remain until, if ever, it’s allowed to grow back to its former splendor.
A network of byways that enables Wonderlanders to enter through one looking glass and exit from another. Focused looking glasses lead to specific destinations. Unfocused looking glasses allow travelers to choose their own destinations, provided there are looking glasses at those destinations out of which they can be reflected.
It takes practice to stay inside the continuum and master basic navigational skills, because just as a body underwater tends to rise to the surface, a body entering a looking glass wants to be reflected out. An inexperienced traveler might enter a looking glass in her own home, thinking to pay a visit to a friend across town, only to be reflected out of a looking glass at her next-door neighbor’s. Given time and experience, she would be able to make the trip.
Covering long distances in the Crystal Continuum is possible only for the most experienced traveler, but short trips are within the skill range of everyone.
This is not the “curious country” that Alice stumbled upon in Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. This is the Chessboard Desert, acres of icy snow alternating with acres of tar and black rock, forming what looks from the air like a giant chessboard. A place of pain and hardship, the desert is home to Jabberwoky and ShardBeasts— only after being removed from succession to Wonderland’s throne, Redd Heart was banished to this inhospitable region, living in a fortress on Mt. Isolation. The tyrannical practitioner of Dark Imagination launched both the unsuccessful war against her sister Queen Genevieve (the White Queen)—then later, the bloody coup that would kill Genevieve and exile Alyss to Earth.
A unique Looking Glass Maze exists for every would-be sovereign of Wonderland, which she must successfully navigate to reach her imagination’s full potential and become a Warrior Queen (i.e., fit to rule).
As a sacred Wonderland text states, “Only she for whom a Looking Glass Maze is intended can enter.” But where a given maze might be, or what it consists of exactly (it’s a test of both physical skill and emotional maturity), only the caterpillar-oracles allegedly know. One who successfully completes her maze emerges with her scepter, which serves as both token of her newfound power and a tool for its exercise.
Redd Heart hasn’t gone through her Looking Glass Maze, which is why, if Alyss can find and successfully navigate hers, the usurper just might be defeated.