November 05, 2017

C.W. Snyder: "Child of Nod" (ARC Review)

Title: Child of Nod [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Balance (1st of 3 books)
Author: C.W. Snyder [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Fantasy, Mythology
Year: 2017
Age: 14+ (it's marketed as NA, but since I don't have a NA section on my blog, I shelved it as YA. However, it's a complex and dark fable that will appeal to adults as well)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Imaginative, multilayered tale weaving lots of literary and mythological references into a fresh story. Evocative prose.
Cons: All the different characters and their stories - and Nod's many facets - might not come together smoothly until a second read.
WARNING! Contains elements of horror and gore (cannibalism among them).
Will appeal to: Both the young and the adult reader seeking a strong, dark-but-poetic example of revisited and enhanced tropes.

Blurb: Alice wakes one day to find herself on the other side of death, in the corrupted fairy tale land of Nod. Unknown to her, the man responsible for her death, Jack, is on a mission to find her spirit and end her second life. Along the way, Alice meets a cast of characters that include a madman with a dark secret, her faithful companion, Dog, and woman made of memory. Together, they help her on her journey as she uncovers the truth of Nod and the woman behind it all, the Red Queen. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. All the books I've received from CQ so far have come with no strings attached, and it's always a pleasure for me to work with them and discover more (sometimes underrated) gems.


Afterlife books are my biggest weakness, as this post testifies. But CON is so much more than that. Building on a classic prompt - Lewis Carroll's Alice slipping into the alternate world of Wonderland - C.W. Snyder spins a dark, yet poetic tale about loss, pain, fear, courage, loyalty, violence and purity of heart. Alice - our Alice - travels in a rich, imaginative version of the afterlife, pursued by an unknown enemy and aided by a bunch of sometimes suspicious, sometimes charming, always quirky characters. This afterlife has lost its Balance and has been partly turned into a wasteland since the Red Queen was born; for reasons we are to uncover through the story, Alice is the only one who can fight the Queen and restore the Balance. It's a classic Chosen One story, except it's not, since Alice's peculiarity is rooted in facts, not in random gifts granted by a superior entity. And though, while traveling through Nod, she does pick up information and abilities that will be needed for the final showdown, she still manages to retain her humanity and a sense of wonder. [...]


Though Alice is the main character and the hero in this story, CON is told in multiple voices. Made-up characters (every one of which gets their own backstory) are flanked by mythological and religious entities (like the Fates and Cain), sometimes in unusual roles. There are literary references, more or less spelled out, weaved into a bunch of original, often disturbing ideas (a steel made of souls, the perpetually-dying-yet-living Queen). The guiding thread is, of course, Alice in Wonderland (at least when the book starts), with a tunnel for a hole and a dog for a rabbit - but more and different threads are added at every turn, while the original ones get twisted into a different tapestry altogether. All this makes for an imaginative, if not comforting world; and despite its horror(s), the story is told in a rich, poetic (yet not purple) prose, that bids us not to skim over landscape and place descriptions, but to bask in them.


This could have been a five-star book for me, if not for a couple of small peeves. First off, though I did like Alice a lot and sympathised with her plights, I didn't feel that strong pull toward her. Maybe it's because we don't even know her age - the author only tells us that
She wasn’t a little girl, but she wasn’t a woman yet, though last summer her breasts and legs had grown and now she was taller than her aunt was.
I assumed she would be around 12, 13 years old, but there's no clear evidence of that - on the contrary, given the whole context, I ultimately guessed she had to be be around 15-16 (I can see that I might have misinterpreted the "not a little girl, not yet a woman" thing). Anyway, I'm not sure the age issue counts for much - it might be the third person narrative, but then again, sometimes it works like a charm for me. I guess the main issue I had with CON was, this is a story you might want to reread at least twice until everything sinks in. Such was my experience with it anyway - I was a bit confused by all the new characters popping up and their backstories (plus the different parts of Nod we get to visit), until I reread the whole thing. These are really small peeves though - I did enjoy this book a lot, and though (luckily) there's no cliffhanger, I'm very much looking forward to the next two installments. More so since, apparently, this is a self-contained novel - so I don't have any idea where the story can go from here 😃.

For my "Queen of Nod" review (second installment in the series) click here.
For my "Goddess of Nod" review (third installment in the series) click here.
For my interview with C.W. Snyder click here.
For more Afterlife books click here.

Edit: CON was picked up by a different publisher (Parliament House) in 2020. This is the new cover.


  1. Very interesting premise. I usually enjoy darker takes on fairy tales - although the originals were quite dark before Disney got a hold of them lol

    Maybe the second book takes on a different character?

    For What It's Worth

    1. Quote:
      "the originals were quite dark before Disney got a hold of them lol".
      Good point LOL.

      No, it seems like the series revolves around Alice, so I suppose there will be different trials for her in the future!

  2. I finished Heartless not too long ago, so I've had Alice on the brain. This seems like it would be a much darker twist, even though it's marketed to a younger age group. I'll have to check it out!

    Do You Dog-ear?

    1. It looks like Alice in Wonderland retellings are everywhere lately...but this one is only slightly based on the story, and weaves so many different literary inputs into it. And yep, it's dark. But it still reads like a fable. Then again, as Karen remarked, fables are often dark...😉

  3. Ahhh, I have to read this! I love Alice in Wonderland stories (and dark and creepy ones as well). Her trip to the afterlife sounds a little like Nancy's to the underworld in Every Heart a Doorway. Lovely review, as always! :]]

    1. I actually thought of you while reading this one - see, we're even 😀 (re.: The Switch).

      And thank you hon!


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