Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X.
Combat training! Secret society initiations! Self-serving rivals! Welcome to Wonderland’s prestigious Millinery Academy: where those born to protect the queendom train to become spies, assassins, and bodyguards. With all that to contend with, not to mention following in his popular older brother’s footsteps, just getting through Imagination Class seems impossible already.
And that’s before he starts seeing ghosts lurking in the corridors…
When students begin behaving strangely throughout the academy, Hatter and his fellow cadets must unlock the mysteries behind the ghosts, and the headmaster’s suspicious behavior, before the entire student body finds itself possessed!
Top Hats Can Be Dangerous!
Hatter has always lived on the outskirts of the Wonderland Millinery Academy, ever since the death of his parents. Now, his brother Dalton is the head bodyguard for the Queen of Hearts, and he is entering the Academy as a Cap, hoping he will be good enough to become a Milliner and help defend Wonderland. Not everyone thinks he should be there-- Rhodes especially makes fun of his background, his tendency to be emotional, and his lack of sewing skills. Hatter does manage to make some friends, however, from Astra, whose family usually does not do well at the Academy, to Newton, who is blind but uses technology to help him with his schoolwork. Hatter also meets the illusive Arlo, who fills Hatter in on the secrets of the Academy's new fighting practice field, the H.A.T.B.O.X. Why do so many Caps faint when they enter? Is it anxiety, or an evil plot by Dr. Shimmer, who runs the facility?
There's lots to be done-- Hatter must take classes in textiles, where he learns to weave the magical caterpillar thread into hats and to harness the White Imagination. He must defend himself from Rhodes, and also deal with grueling early morning runs and after school detention, which he can't seem to escape. Before moving on in the Academy, all Caps must pass a test to determine if they'll continue and what path they'll take, but can Hatter overcome the challenges thrown in his way to stay enrolled, especially when saving Arlo may stand in the way?
Since it's been a long time since I read The Looking Glass Wars, I felt like I was missing some of the intricate details of the world building-- there are a lot of levels in the school as well as in the Wonderland kingdom that I could only guess at. There are a lot of fun features of the school, though-- the Textillery has a lot of magical elements for creating garments, the H.A.T.B.O.X. is a fabulous venue for training, and the boarding school has interesting ways to get to one's room as well as scrumptious sounding food.
Hatter is a main character in Beddor's Young Adult The Looking Glass Wars trilogy as well as the Hatter M. series, and this look at his teen years is a middle grade friendly way to introduce readers to the world of Wonderland. Part Charlie Bone and part Ender's Game, with its boarding school setting and intricate fighting strategies and weapons, this book will be a hit with readers who enjoy well-developed fantasy books or Steampunk tomes like Kress' The Friday Society or Westerfeld's Leviathan.
With the release of the second Disney live action treatment of this world, Alice Through the Looking Glass, being released in May, Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. is a great way to keep Alice fans busy until then!