Series: Splintered #1
Author: A.G. Howard
Published: January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. 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.
I’m not really one for fairy tale retellings unless there is something very different about them to make it stand out. Splintered does just that, it takes everything you think you know about Wonderland and turns it on its head. This book gets A+ on imagery, every character is very vividly drawn. When Alyssa Gardner’s great great grandmother returned from Wonderland to inspire the story we’ve all heard, apparently her little girl mind glossed over some of the facts. This Wonderland is more like the one you find in the American McGee’s Alice video game (which I never actually finished, I might add, I was never good at swinging from vines and jumping on mushrooms, but I digress). The creatures of Wonderland are wonderfully twisted, from the skeletal gnomish creature that’s not quite the white rabbit, to the manipulative and kind of creepy hot dude that’s no longer a caterpillar (though he still likes his smoke).
Like the other women in her family, Alyssa hears bugs and plants when they speak. The very ability that has landed her mother in Soul’s Asylum, where she’s scheduled to undergo shock treatment unless Alyssa can find a way to break the Liddell curse. Determined to save her mother, Alyssa decides to go to England to find Wonderland. Only, it’s a lot closer than she knows, and she has a niggling all too familiar voice in her head to guide her towards it.
Jeb, Alyssa’s childhood crush (who still sees her as a kid), gets inadvertently dragged along on the journey. A very twisty journey full of wild goose chases and things that want Alyssa dead for what Alice did. And in the middle of it all, Morpheus, the guiding voice. Do you smell a love triangle? You should. Between the guy who’s kind of controlling, and the one who is controlling AND manipulative. And yet… I found myself liking them both. What can I say, I have a type.
Splintered is incredibly well plotted (if somewhat meandering) full of amazing imagery. It fell just a smidgen short of love for me, but I did enjoy it very much and I am looking forward to the sequel and seeing what mad shenanigans Morpheus will think up next. In this story the Hatter is quite possibly the least mad person, it’s everyone else you gotta watch out for.
Kudos to the Publisher for a gorgeous cover!
A.G. Howard is most at home when weaving the melancholy and macabre into settings and scenes, twisting the expected into the unexpected. She was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.
A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.
Her debut YA fantasy, SPLINTERED, a dark Alice in Wonderland spinoff, is now available from Amulet Books. The sequel, UNHINGED, is due to launch January 2014.