by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Published: January 1, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Format: eBook (371 pages)
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.
Short and Sweet Review
Splintered starts out as an awesome retelling of Alice in Wonderland with a gothic twist. Alyssa, the main character, goes on a journey fixing what Alice broke in Wonderland, which I thought was a clever idea. The middle suffered from way too much info-dumping. The end never quite recovered from that loss of momentum from the slow middle. The story turned into a shaky quest to get this thing so she could get that thing then the other thing and I easily got lost which made me stop caring about the story. I sadly didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
Jessica Thinks Too Much Review
I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 1)
What an opening line! It’s so cool! This girl, Alyssa, is slightly crazy but so relatable and likable that I kind of over looked it. She kills bugs as a way to deal with hearing their voices and then makes beautiful/creepy art out of them. It’s such a strange but fascinating way to deal with the struggles she has. The fact that she does her best to deal with them instead of ignoring them is what makes her so easy for me to like.
I tapped the bee hard enough to stun it. Then I whisked the flowers out of the water and pressed them between the pages of a spiral notebook, to silence their chattering petals.
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 4)
Chattering petals. I just love that.
When Alyssa does go to Wonderland, she meets some flower zombies (which is an awesome idea all by itself) and then tries to fix all the things that Alice ruined in Wonderland to fix a curse that has plagued her family (who are descendants of Alice) ever since. What a cool way to retell Alice in Wonderland! She soaks the ocean of tears up with a sponge and defeats a creepy gothic version of the walrus. Oh. My. Gosh. I am so on board with this. I’m having the best time!
Alyssa goes to Morpheus’ house. He’s the “grown-up” caterpillar meaning he’s a moth/human thing of some sort. So cool. But at Morpheus’ house we run into the major issue I had with this book. What started as a journey to fix a curse is getting twisted into a story about Alyssa getting crowned Queen because she’s actually a descendant of the Red Queen (and so not cursed but a half-breed, solving that problem nicely). We obviously don’t know that at this point in the book (which was almost exactly in the middle), but to foreshadow such a big shift like that takes a lot of info-dumping. Buckets and buckets of tedious, boring information. It took so much setting up to have the twist at the end that *gasp* Alyssa is the new Red Queen (!) that I had lost interest by that point. I kept getting impatient with the middle of the book waiting for things to happen again. Some of the info-dumping was about things I had already guessed, like her mother was not really insane. Duh. It’s hard to keep interested in a story when 30 pages of it goes something like this:
“After Queen Red was exiled to the wilds, she was never seen again. Her stepsister, Grenadine, married the king and became Queen— a woman so forgetful, she could never handle wearing the crown. And now her king wants to give her two.” Morpheus drags a glittering diamond tiara from the bag. “I’ve a spy stationed in the Red castle. When the White Court came to me with news of Ivory’s fate some weeks ago, I sent word for my contact to steal the jabberlock box. I’m harboring Ivory here, along with her crown, to keep them safe from Grenadine and King Red. If they control both the Red and White portals, good luck ever getting home.” He tucks the tiara away again. “All this will be ameliorated once Alyssa finds the vorpal sword. It’s the most powerful weapon in Wonderland. I can use it to force them to grant Ivory’s freedom. Her portal will be open to you then.”
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 201)
It’s too much all at once. I want to experience events as much as possible and be told about past events as little as possible. One instance of info-dumping isn’t so bad. It happens sometimes in stories. But so many stories like this were told right in a row that it slowed the story down. We get info-dumps about her boyfriend’s past issues and info-dumps about how Alyssa has looked extremely different the entire time she was in Wonderland. Say what. I’m baffled that this guy would keep Alyssa’s altered appearance to himself. For what reason does he do this exactly? No guy would mention it that late in the game if they had even noticed a change in her appearance at all. But because he decided to keep it to himself, we get another glorious info-dump.
“You’ve been like this the whole time. I noticed it when we first stepped out of the rabbit hole. I thought your makeup had smeared. But then, after the ocean, you still had it. I didn’t make the connection until I saw Morpheus without his mask a few minutes ago.” Jeb pauses, looking like he might be sick. His thumbs rub the edges of the black designs. “They don’t wipe away. And the glitter all over your skin? That’s not salt residue. You’re starting to look like my fairy sketches, for real.”
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 188)
The theme of insanity was well done and one of my favorite things about the book. I enjoyed the quotes that came up about sense and logic and how relative those terms really are. When Alyssa goes to a dinner where they have to hunt down and kill what had, at first, seemed like a dead and roasted bird, I love how Morpheous explains that just because it looks insane, doesn’t mean that it is.
“You understand the logic behind the illogical, Alyssa. It’s in your nature to find tranquility amid the madness. And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re giving our food a fighting chance.”
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 211)
I don’t mind sensuality when it adds something to the story. When two characters are falling in love, it works. I felt like there was a lot of pointless sensuality in Splintered. The vomit inducing sensuality didn’t add anything to the story besides my vomit.
Then she turns to Jeb. “Elfin knight, do you wish for pleasure on your quest? I can provide it, if you so desire.”
– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 145)
The romance. Jeb draws pictures of Alyssa all the time but he has a girlfriend. Ok. All Alyssa can think is, “He’s going on a dangerous adventure with me and he almost kissed me. Clearly he likes someone else.” Ok. I just really didn’t get it. Then they make-out some more. End romance.
I wished I had liked the ending, but it was even more confusing than the romance. Stuff happens and Jeb loses his head. Literally. It was one of those things where it’s so crazy that the only way to fix it is with magic. Alyssa fixes this problem by going back in time and making it so Jeb doesn’t come this time and therefore doesn’t lost his head. Weird magical time jumps should not just magically fix things. But maybe that’s just me.
Then we get to a possessed toy graveyard and by this point I’m just really sad. I’m really sad for all the toys I’ve ever thrown away and I’m really sad that there are now characters that weren’t in the original Alice in Wonderland. I don’t really get why these spider/woman things are even in the story other than stopping Alyssa from getting the latest thing. I think it’s a sword right now. I’m also really sad that the love I had for the first quarter of the book is gone. I wish the rest of the book could have been that awesome.
When I finished, I don’t I understand why this book is a series. The ending seemed pretty wrapped up. For some reason, Alyssa is a queen in Wonderland but decides to go home. Seems like a lot of work to go through to become queen if all she gets out of it is going home. Maybe she couldn’t find the ruby slippers. I don’t know. Morpheous got eaten by a pig but I don’t really care that much. To be honest, there’s nothing that is pulling me into the next book. I love retellings and while I liked some things about this gothic rendition that was inspired by Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, it just didn’t click with me liked I hoped it would.
Content Rating: Medium, for sensuality some of which seemed unnecessary and a few make-out scenes that were a little too graphic for my taste. Mild language.
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