Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the Hatbox
by Frank Beddor and Adrienne Kress
Cover Artist: Frank Beddor
Review by Gayle Surrette
Automatic Publishing Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780991272921
Date: 19 April 2016 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I'd already read The Looking Glass Wars: CrossFire by Frank Beddor and Curtis Clark before starting Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the Hatbox by Frank Beddor and Adrienne Kress. There was a person called Hatter in the graphic novel, but his last name was never mentioned, so I don't know if this Hatter Madigan grows to become that Hatter, but I suspect he does. This review and the one of the graphic novel are my first forays into this version of Wonderland.
Thirteen-year-old Hatter Madigan has lived at the academy since shortly after the death of his parents. This year he will finally be one of the cadets starting his training at the academy. It's going to be a time of transition for Hatter as he adjusts to being a student rather than a boarder at the academy.
Since Hatter grew up in the academy with his brother, who has already been through the academy, and now is the Queen's bodyguard, he has a good idea about what is involved. The training is grueling. He must learn to control all his emotions, excel in combat, and in his classes. He's determined to succeed.
Hatter didn't grow up in Wandertropolis, the city that stretches out below the academy, so he's unfamiliar with the other families and the Milliner children that lived there. Several of the other cadets introduce themselves to Hatter, saying they grew up in the neighborhood his parents lived in. Hatter is led to believe that he must fit in with his classmates and scorn those who have no chance of surviving until graduation. Hatter, as did Harry Potter when he first arrived at Hogwarts, must learn to tell sincere friendship from those who use friendship to use him.
Meanwhile, Hatter keeps seeing a boy about his age that isn't a student or someone who lives at the academy, but who gives him cryptic messages asking for help. It isn't until his first training session in the HATBOX, the martial arts training center, that he realizes the boy is one of the simulacrums that are used for sparing practice. He knows something is wrong, but not what or how to fix it.
Hatter Madigan manages over time to realize that he must decide what is important to him and how he'll relate to others. He recognizes some of his behaviors were beneath him when compared to the person he would want to be. He learns many lessons beyond the ones that are taught at the academy and manages to make some true friends.
There's plenty of action, misunderstanding, skulduggery, and mayhem to keep a reader turning the pages. The characters act their age and logically within the structure of the world in which they live. A good story with plenty of heart.