Once upon a Wonderland by DJ Stoneham – Book Review

Once upon a Wonderland by DJ Stoneham – Book Review

Once Upon a Wonderland by DJ Stoneham

Once upon a Wonderland

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Once upon a Wonderland

Can Alice uncover the truth to escape her twisted fantasy?

“Fee-fi-fo-fum!” boomed the ogre.
“Why do you keep quoting Shakespeare’s King Lear?” asked Alice. “And while we’re on the subject, why can you only smell the blood of Englishmen? Why not other nationalities? Or English women come to that?”

A poltergeist in tattered leotards, a queen suffering from hypersomnia and a psychotic arsonist. These are not the Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella that Alice has come to know and love. Nevertheless, she needs to get them and other fairy tale characters out of Wonderland if she’s to mend Time and return home. And rescue Jack, the feathered boy she’s in love with.

Alice’s quest is not helped by accusations of treason from the local inhabitants, the advances of an arrogant Pied Piper and the fact that she is growing younger by the hour. And then there is the Queen of Hearts and her cohorts to contend with.

Peppered with surreal events, gritty wordplay and the sinister backstories to popular fairy tales, this sequel to Alice Falls Again is a must for younger and older adults alike.

Review by Julie

‘Once Upon a Wonderland’ is a fantasy adventure from the pen of Finland-based British author, D J Stoneham. At first glance, the book cover appears quaint but on closer inspection, the characters are damaged. This immediately suggests the book isn’t going to be a totally
cosy read.

Alice is now an adult and swerving all attempts by her mother to marry her off because her heart belongs to Jack, a feathered boy whom she met during a previous adventure. There is little of the demure Victorian woman in Alice; she is free-thinking and independent in spirit. After arriving with a splash for her fourth visit to Wonderland, Alice encounters a variety of characters from fairy tales, all of whom appear to be laden with emotional baggage and grievances. Whilst she encourages some of her foils to take control of their own destiny, she too must face a time of reflective awareness before she can hope to leave. However, it would appear that Alice’s presence has created an anomaly which could have catastrophic consequences, meaning a return home certainly isn’t guaranteed.

David Stoneham appears extremely well-versed in his knowledge of fairy tales through the ages and I was able to check the authenticity of the characters’ origins from a few internet searches. The descriptive passages will no doubt paint a vivid picture for fans of this genre. Humour and irony are used to good effect, as are foreshadowing, similes and metaphors with the author not being afraid to introduce a little of the macabre, should the reworking of various familiar stories benefit from this.

Having steadfastly avoided Alice throughout my childhood, I cannot comment on whether or not this tale captures the essence of Lewis Carroll’s portrayal. However, I found it to be a quirky, whimsical adventure which may well strike a note for those who enjoyed timeless fantasies as children. It introduces some thought-provoking contemporary topics as Alice tries to complete a variety of tasks so that this alternative world can regain its equilibrium. A useful reinforcement technique is employed with Alice frequently reminding herself of her to-do list; this demonstrates to the reader that the author is keeping his focus on pace and structure.

Stories borrowing a character or characters, created by others, raise ethical questions which have been extensively debated elsewhere and I confess to being conflicted in this respect. This tale is a tad lengthy but sticking with it will deliver some interesting themes and moral messages. The author has demonstrated he is an accomplished wordsmith and for the plot and writing craft, I award four-and-a-half stars.

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DJ Stoneham


Having journeyed down his own personal rabbit hole at the tail end of a career in communications and sustainability, David is now pursuing a lifelong dream of writing fantasy. Rather like the proverbial Alice, David finds himself drawn to the curious, the fantastic and the peculiar. So in many ways, it made sense to make Alice Falls Again his first novel to reach the finishing line in 2018. In 2023, David produced a new edition of Alice Falls Again with additional content and published the follow-up, stand-alone story – Once upon a Wonderland.

In between the two Wonderland books, David published Outcast and Havoc – the first two books of a fantasy saga, called Worlds Apart. This duology takes the reader on a journey of epic proportions – a storyline that bridges two worlds and a plot rich in twists and revelations. Be warned – the story is immersive and slow-burn (and in British English), so these high fantasy stories are not for the faint-hearted.

Although relatively new to publishing his own fantasy works, back in the 1990s, David co-wrote a best-selling series of schoolbooks for English teachers and co-created a private anthology of short fiction, with foreword by Nicholas Negroponte and Arthur C Clarke.

Born in London, David grew up on the south coast of England and, after a few years in China and back in the UK, he made his home in Finland.

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