ARC Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by A.G. Howard
Publication Date: 1 Jan 2013
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Amulet Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

Christal’s Review – 3.5 Skulls – B-

You know those books that everyone loves… everyone but you? Well, I was really fearful that Splintered was going to be one of those books for me, but a strong last third turned it around. Even if you don’t love the beginning, I recommend sticking with the book because the payoff is worth it. I would give the first half 2 stars, but the second half would get 4 stars. That averages to 3 but I’m adding .5 because I loved the ending so much.

Splintered is a reimaging of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but with its own mythology and spin on Wonderland itself. The vivid imagery is well done and the world kind of reminds me of “American McGee’s Alice” videogames but in a good way. A.G. Howard obviously knew her stuff but sometimes the description could bog the story down just a bit. That said, I think she made wonderful use of the existing Alice lore while still telling a unique story.

Alyssa is our main character, a descendant of the original Alice Liddell, and at first I wasn’t too impressed with her. She seemed to be a wilting flower, content to let other people make decisions and take care of her. I never felt like she really stood up for herself. Not to mention the slang in the beginning of the book was killing me! Thankfully, all that changed when she made it to Wonderland and her character really started to evolve.

Jeb was one of the possible love interests and I thought he was just okay. Sometimes he could be really bossy and demanding, not to mention jealous and possessive even though he had a girlfriend that wasn’t Alyssa. Morpheus was the other love interest and even though we weren’t supposed to like him, I kinda did. Yeah, he was pretty twisted and did some horrible things, but I think Ms. Howard did a good job showing hints to a softer, more compassionate side that kept him from being completely irredeemable. I knew the love triangle had to play out the way it did, but I am glad to see the other guy is not completely down for the count.

I think the reason I never warmed up to Jeb was that he seemed to slow everything down. When he was with Alyssa, the plot absolutely dragged and her character never had a chance to grow. At least with Morpheus, jerk he may have been, Alyssa learned she could stand up for herself and didn’t need anyone else to fight her battles. It was actually right around the time that Jeb was separated from Alyssa that I really started to enjoy the story. It’s not to say that I didn’t like Jeb and didn’t appreciate the connection he and Alyssa had, it’s just that I didn’t think he was that necessary to the plot. I think the Wonderland scenes would have been much stronger without him. Ms. Howard would have had more time to develop the suspense and Alyssa’s transformation if she hadn’t had the romance to cover. I like that Alyssa was making her own choices in the end and not letting anyone push her around, I just wish she had gotten there a little sooner.

Alyssa’s family and friends, especially her mom, and the Wonderland characters were unique and interesting, but not super well defined. But, I think that’s okay. They each had their passing importance to the story and then Alyssa was on to new and different things. They added color to her world, but they never overshadowed her actual journey of self-discovery.

I knew there had to be some kind of plot twist at the end, but I didn’t see the actual one coming. I thought it was well-plotted and foreshadowed when you think back to the earlier events. I was pleased with the twist and also equally pleased with the outcome. Though I don’t think this particular story would benefit from becoming a series, I would gladly pick up another A.G. Howard novel in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Amulet Books for providing an ARC copy of this book!

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

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