This review is spoiler-free!
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Release Date: January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
Format: Paperback, 371 pages
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Right off the bat I gotta say: these covers for the series? Among my favorites I’ve ever seen. They’re bright, beautifully colored, and just slightly creepy enough for an Alice in Wonderland story. I don’t think I’ll end up loving the story enough to keep the whole series, but, man, it is a huge loss for me because I would love to keep these on my shelves. (In fact, I’m still debating just keeping them anyway, even though I try to only keep books I either love or have nostalgia attached to them.)
Now, the actual story. I went in thinking it was a very straightforward Alice in Wonderland retelling, but it’s not at all. Alyssa is actually the great (great? I’ve forgotten how many greats there are) granddaughter of the original Alice Liddell, and I feel like that fact, coupled with the idea that the experience of the rabbit hole dive went down the family line for reasons explained in the story, made the story kind of awesome in its own right. Like, that’s a cool take on it, no? I thought so.
However, it was tropes that ended up really dragging this story down for me. Howard’s writing is spectacular, absolutely amazing, but it couldn’t put me past the bad tropes that were shoved into the story. I know it was written in 2013, but I was done with most of the tropes in this (I won’t name them since you might not see them coming, though I think you will easily), like, back in 2011. Maybe even 2010. They were very specifically tropes I hate. Depending on how long you’ve been here, I may have just spoiled you on them. Sorry about that.
If it weren’t for that, I think I could have loved the story, honestly. I was thoroughly hooked by the way it was written, because, worldbuilding? Description? Done spectacularly. Like, DAMN, can Howard do a word goodly. She really gave a lot of things life in my eyes.
(I do think the fact Alyssa, one whole ass white girl, having “dreads” was a no-no, but it’s also not my place to make that call, so I’ll leave it as it is.)
I’m absolutely going to continue on with the series (and, by the time you read this, I should be done with it), so we’ll see how I end up liking the story as a whole. Maybe it’ll pick up, who knows! I certainly don’t.
Thanks for reading!