ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor

“’It is supposed that power corrupts,’ the caterpillar said in a voice as untroubled as time itself. ‘Yet the powerful are often corrupt before they are powerful. In fact, I find that they too often become powerful by being corrupt. Whether real or perceived, a lack of power can also corrupt.’”

Imagine if Alice in Wonderland and The Matrix had a baby.


ArchEnemy would be their child. From there you begin the tale fraught with heaps of onomatopoeia and sounds that many times detract from the story.

Being the third in a trilogy, I really wanted to like this book. The first two were spectacular books, playing on the tropes and story of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Yes, this is a retelling of the classic children’s tale, but it’s more than that. Or at least, the first two were. Sadly, the last book is riddled with the writings of an author who has run out of steam.

To begin with, Beddor’s writing is simplistic at best. Now, that’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but Beddor has a habit of telling the reader what’s happening, sometimes all across the world. Other times he jumps from place to place, trying to add suspense and end on cliffhangers that have no tension whatsoever to the story.

And he’s guilty of head hops.

As anticipated, this is a cliché piece of YA work. The characters are many times naïve, Alyss Heart, the protagonist, being the main accuser.

Who in their right mind would make friends with the person trying to kill them their whole life just to dethrone the new King? Who would trust Redd Heart’s bodyguard, one of the antagonists, to work alongside you? Who would do such an idiotic thing, all in the idealistic thought of teamwork being better? Alyss Heart, the dethroned Queen of Wonderland.

Shocker, I know.

Coming back to his feeble attempts at suspense, the reader is led through a tale where nothing happens for the first half of the story. Add in a hooking prologue that you don’t see again until 270 pages into the novel, (Novel being 370 pages long) you begin to see my frustration with an author I used to love.

If Beddor had started with the prologue and went from there, not trying to set up chess pieces for a grand finale that really isn’t that amazing, he probably would’ve had a better book. I for one many times do rant for authors to keep their sometimes boring parts if it is necessary.

But the first 200 pages aren’t necessary. All the telling of what’s going on inside every single character’s mind, their motivation, and whiny crap, is not necessary. It detract from the story. It makes the reader think the author thinks we’re stupid.

One major plot hole I could see is, Why couldn’t Redd or Alyss attack Arch, the misogynist villain, while he’s sleeping? I mean, if you can make a construct of yourself anywhere in the world and still harm somebody, even if they can’t harm you as a construct, why not kill the man while he’s sleeping? Everybody has to sleep, right?

Evidently not.

Nor does everyone have to read this ending to a once well-loved trilogy. This is YA writing at its worst, shoving down a break neck pace to throw in resolutions that have no emotional impact. The revenge story line of Dodge’s didn’t matter. Arch’s ending wasn’t resolved. Hatter Madigan, one of my favorite characters, was thrown under the bus for the last 100 pages.

So I’m throwing this in the stack of books never to recommend.

If you want an imaginative, original story for YA readers, go devour the first two in this series. Or Incarceron. Can’t recommend that enough. But whatever you do, don’t touch the ending. Be glad that your mind can whittle off ideas of how it all falls into place. Because I’m sure you can figure out how the predictable plot goes from the first thirty seconds of sitting there and imagining.

Simply put, there is a reason The Matrix was a movie, not a book. All action does not make a good transition to the written word. But that’s just one minor fault. Really.

Rating: 4/10

4 thoughts on “ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor

  1. Interesting review. That happens to a lot of YA books that I’ve read, and I always read the last book in a YA series with a bit of reluctance. They almost always make it far too sentimental, and unrealistic. I probably won’t be reading the previous books in this trilogy, though, since I’m not a fan of the Matrix or Alice in Wonderland. (Even my sister, the die hard Tim Burton fan, concedes that the Alice in Wonderland movie wasn’t his finest moment, mostly because the original Alice in Wonderland wasn’t very interesting either.)

  2. I read the first two books, but the second one was a relative ‘meh’ for me, and I’d never planned to read the third. Guess I can stick to that plan. Thanks for the warning.

  3. I’m pretty much addicted to the whole series. I’ve been searching the Looking Glass Wars series and found that they’re adding more to the story via Kickstarter.

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