Top critical review
I hate Richard Mayhew.
Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2019
Richard Mayhew is among the worst protagonists in anything I've read/played/watched. His only redeeming feature in the entire book is that he stops to help someone lying in the street after nearly tripping over them, and that's just what any decent person should do, not something deserving of any particular praise.
Aside from that, he exists only to be the dullest, stupidest, least relatable audience stand-in ever. He makes Arthur Dent look like a take-charge man of action. It becomes very clear early on that when the fairy people use terms like the names of railway stations or bridges or whatever that they mean something else, but Richard has to keep making the dumb assumption that they mean the normal, non-Wonderland version. And he has no apparent motivations or will of his own, he just goes along with whatever's happening.
Even on the few occasions where he does attempt to do something, he still does the dumbest things. For example, after discovering that basically everything in Oz is dangerous, Richard hires a mysterious guide who won't tell him up front what the payment will be.
And it annoyed me especially, early on (when he first found that he'd become invisible to normal people) that he decided to track down Door, not to demand that she make amends for messing up his life, but to see if she needed any more help and because he hoped she might be pleased to see him. When he does bring up the fact that she's basically killed him, it's in the most apologetic way, and he still wants to help her.
And other characters aren't much better. The marquis is smug and obnoxious, Door is ridiculously naïve, Croup and Vandamar are pretty one-dimensional and, because they mostly don't actually do anything, not nearly as creepy as they seem like they should be. Jessica is mostly fine, but it makes no sense that she would ever be engaged to Richard (or rely on him to have booked the restaurant or confirmed the booking in the pre-Elfame bit). She seems to be an example of a common character type with English authors, the girlfriend of the hopeless protagonist who is way too good for him, and everyone can see it except for her.
Then there's the plot. It's rather similar to Alice in Wonderland, in that stuff just happens for no particular reason, seemingly just as the author thought of it, until you get to the utterly unsurprising revelation of who the villain is. And once you do know, the plot makes even less sense if you think about it, because there's no reason for most of the things that happened. The villain could have gotten what he wanted with a much less circuitous plan.
And even the ending is terrible. Richard finally gets to go home, but decides that his life is inevitably going to be boring (because, as previously mentioned, he has no actual motivations or desires, so he'll just drift along whatever path is easiest), so he returns to the dark world, like as though that will somehow lead to him having a meaningful life. What's he going to do, track down Door again and follow her around like a lost puppy? I hate this guy.