Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: ABRAMS
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 384 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

SplinteredThis 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 and the whispers grow too strong to bear, 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.

Unless she fixes the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong, Wonderland will have her head.


If you liked Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Splintered will be your new best friend. If you are like me and did not love Shadow and Bone, Splintered will not be your book.

Howard's take on Wonderland reminds me of a toned-down version of the video game American McGee's Alice, which turned Wonderland into a terrible place full of killers, deformed monsters, and twisted creatures that turn out to be the characters of Alice's story. The novel never has enough in common with the game for me to call copycat and I love the freshness of it. I think it's silly they decided to name all the girls with Alice-esque names (i.e. Alicia, Alison, Alyssa) when the curse started with Alice, but rolling with it isn't too hard, especially with some of these description in place. Chills ran up and down my arms a few times with how some events and people were described!

The further into the novel I read, the more frustrating of an experience it became. The characterization of female within the novel is rather lacking. We have Alyssa (who never stops to think about whether or not Jeb broke up with his girlfriend before making out with him), mean girl Taelor, a sprite characterized mainly by her jealousy, a mom locked up in an asylum, one queen who can't remember anything without her ribbons, another queen whose main characterization is about how her heart was broken, and our antagonist. There are a few other female characters with too little characterization to be of mention. I'm very sensitive to issues like this in my reading.

Alyssa gets a choice between Jeb, a controlling creep who treats her like a child who decides the best way to deal with his feelings is to date someone who bullies the object of his affection, and Morpheus, a manipulative creep. Morpheus is even creepier and he doesn't try to hide it. Having him crawl in bed with her just after they meet again and make her have tingly feelings by messing with her birthmark? Too much too soon.

On that subject, Morpheus and subtlety are lost on one another. It's clear that he has nefarious plans for Alyssa from the beginning, but she doesn't get it until the very end. Reading this almost-400-page book while wanting to scream the solution at Alyssa is almost painful. It seems readers are supposed to like him and not see through him so easily, but that is one perspective I cannot open my eyes to.

Overall, the novel is well-plotted and incredibly creative, but appreciating that might be easier if the specific details didn't overshadow the overarching elements like this. Only upon looking back on my reading experience once I'd finished Splintered was I able to find details I liked and see its strong organization for what it was.

About those Shadow and Bone similarities, for curious readers: the girl with a great destiny tied with the fate of a magical world, the powers she's been hiding from the rest of the world, the childhood friend she is head-over-heels in love with, the dark, seductive being who leads her to great power but whose motives are not pure, the complex machinations he's been working on for years to get what he wants... Basically, a fantastic idea I found myself unable to enjoy largely due to its characters. Calling copycat here isn't right because the similarities are an Elisha Gray/Alexander Graham Bell situation, but that doesn't make them any less visible.

When I'm in the mood for creepy!Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I'll stick with American McGee's Alice.

2 stars!

What am I reading next?: Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe