Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: "Splintered" by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2013

Alyssa Gardner is descended from a long line of madness, beginning with her great-great-great grandmother, Alice Liddell. Her grandmother Alicia drew Wonderland characters all over her walls when she was a teen and believed she could fly, jumping to her death shortly after giving birth to Alyssa's mother, Alison. Alison, residing in a psych ward, talks to flowers and bugs, and refuses to eat anything unless it's served in a teacup. Alyssa knows it's only a matter of time before she ends up in a straitjacket herself. After all, she too can hear the flowers and the insects...

But all this madness turns out to be for a reason. Alice, it turns out, really did fall down the rabbit hole, but the events of the story are a bit different than Lewis Carroll's version. When Alyssa discovers she might be able to fix her family and its curse, she is thrown into Wonderland along with her best friend Jeb and discovers allies in the netherworld, chiefly Morpheus, surprisingly sexy and seductive Caterpillar of Wonderland fame. Soon Alyssa discovers she can't be sure who she trusts; will she be able to save her mother and herself before it's too late, or will she be trapped in Wonderland forever?

This is a wonderfully grotesque and twisted view of Wonderland, and I give A.G. Howard serious credit for her world building. Wonderland is full of deformed creatures, often a mishmash of animals and mythical beings that resemble something you'd find in a nightmare. It's chaotic and morbid, mad and strange, and it was everything (and more) I really wanted Tim Burton's Wonderland to be in his disappointing film.

I did have problems with some aspects, however. The story was choppy in the beginning, with things happening very quickly; it was all a little too rapid to be quite believable to me. And at first I thought Jeb's inclusion in the adventure was purely so Alyssa could be in the center a love triangle with him and Morpheus. Luckily, it smoothed out a bit toward the middle. There are some surprising and fantastic twists that I didn't see coming, which more than redeemed the beginning bits for me.

I actually found myself enjoying the love triangle, something that usually bugs me. (The passion got a bit heavy-handed and cloying for my tastes, but I'm certain I'm going to be in the minority when it comes to that.) It was clear that each man represented a different part of Alyssa's self; light and dark, order and chaos. I found myself unsure of who to "root" for, so to speak, both of them are so much a part of who Alyssa is and could be. And that was really at the center of this novel: Alyssa's discovery of her self, and choosing which path to take.

If you're a fan of the original, this is worth the read, especially if you're into a darker and more twisted telling. Some surprising and welcome twists make this truly an original re-imagining of a classic tale.

Disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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