March 11, 2014

Review: SPLINTERED

Before I even get into any kind of review of A. G. Howard's Splintered, I would be remiss if I didn't gush just a little about this spectacular cover. Isn't it positively breathtaking? The vivid colours perfectly reflect the equally vivid setting of this fantastical YA novel. Kudos to the very obviously talented cover design team for getting it so, so right.

Here's what Splintered is all about (from the book jacket):
ALYSSA GARDNER hears the thoughts of plants and animals. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family ever since her great-great-great-grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

But perhaps she's not mad. And perhaps Carroll's stories aren't as whimsical as they first seem.

To break the curse of insanity, Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Wonderland, a place full of strange beings with dark agendas. Alyssa brings her real-world crush—the protective Jeb—with her, but once her journey begins, she's torn between his solidity and the enchanting, dangerous magic of Morpheus, her guide to Wonderland.

But no one in Wonderland is who they seem to be—not even Alyssa herself...

SETTING + WORLD BUILDING
I'm starting here because Splintered 's setting was the number one thing that really leaped off the page. What can I say besides WOW? Picture that gorgeous cover above, then toss in a heaping helping of creep factor and you've got A. G. Howard's spin on Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Description is definitely one of the author's strong suits, as is gorgeous prose. As someone who isn't always the most visual of people, I did at times find it difficult to picture some of the things being described, but this is not in any way the fault of the author; I take full blame for that! Lush, colourful imagery completely transports you to Wonderland with Alyssa and Jeb and sets the stage for a wild ride.

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Here's where Splintered deviates in a really, really unique way from Lewis Carroll's original tale. Without ruining the experience for you (because, trust me, it's a total trip), let's just say that Carroll's Alice recounts a very non-creepy, non-threatening version of the characters she meets in Wonderland in a way that her child's mind is able to process. (At least that's what this spin on the story suggests, anyway.) A. G. Howard presents this cast of characters in a way that is much the opposite of Alice's version and it's both fantastically sinister and sometimes terrifying. Think Pan's Labyrinth meets (and laughs in the face of) Disney's Alice In Wonderland. It's seriously awesome, folks.

Alyssa, as the protagonist of the story, was the perfect blend of vulnerable and tough, making it very easy to root for her. The 'descendent of Alice Liddell' thing was also very cool. Both of the love interests (yes, both) were suitably compelling in very different ways. Morpheus scores extra points for his face markings, wicked fashion sense, and unpredictability; Jeb for his labret, sheer likeability, and fierce loyalty.

THAT THING CALLED LOVE
So, here's the thing... This book has a love triangle. I'm not put off by such things, but I know there are those who are, so fair warning. Both potential pairings were swoonworthy in their own right, and after finishing the book I'm actually torn between the two. That said, I think I could have done with less touchy feely while one particular relationship was blossoming. It felt at times like there was too much tucking of faces into chests, cupping of those same faces, and just general touching for no good reason. Don't get me wrong, I love romance in the books I read, but I'm also a fan of not sprinkling this too liberally into the story. It makes what should be heart-stopping swoony moments feel less...swoony. Like it doesn't feel like enough of a payoff after the build up. Does that make sense? Leave us hanging a wee bit longer.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
I'm kind of ashamed to admit I'm not entirely certain I've read the source material for this story. I've seen Disney's version of it as well as that recent Tim Burton train wreck, so I'm definitely familiar with Alice, but I will concede that I might not be 100% up to snuff on Carroll's tale. I don't think this in any way detracts from the enjoyment of reading Splintered. If anything, I feel more inclined to pick up Alice's Adventures In Wonderland now. A. G. Howard's Splintered is non-stop adventure from the very moment we fall down the rabbit hole with Alyssa and Jeb. As someone who reads for escapism, I highly recommend this book to those who wish to visit worlds that are "curiouser and curiouser" than the one in which we live. I also highly recommend the perfect pairing of a giant pot of tea while you read it. Obviously.

And just because you really need to see it and join in the gushing, here's the AH-mazing cover for the sequel Unhinged. You're welcome.:

Well, hello there, Morpheus.

8 comments:

  1. I really liked how SPLINTERED was a continuation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND rather than a straight up retelling. It made the story feel unique and less predictable. You already know I enjoyed this one, and I'm glad you did too. How about that part with the creepy dolls, huh? Eek. Anyway, great review! I'm not sure when I'll get around to reading UNHINGED but your review is reminding me that I need to get my butt in gear with that!

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    1. While I liked SPLINTERED, I'm taking a break before reading UNHINGED. I'm in the mood for sci-fi or fantasy, so that's what I'm reading right now. The dolls were definitely creepy, as was Rabid White and some of the other more graphic characters. O.o So, now that I look at the cover of UNHINGED, I'm kind of seeing a Robert Pattinson thing going on in the face. Once you see it, you can't unsee it...

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  2. This book sounds SO COOL! I love fairytale-type retellings and have been really excited about The Lunar Chronicles lately because, while they're based on a well-known story, they take on a life of their own. It seems like SPLINTERED does the same thing. And THAT COVER! GORGEOUS!

    Thanks for the review, Jaime! :)

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    1. I wouldn't call it a retelling, more like a continuation and tweaking of the original story, which makes it pretty cool. It's definitely a very visual read. I love the heck out of the Lunar Chronicles. You're so right about how they take on a life of their own. I like that Marissa Meyer (and in this case with SPLINTERED) veered from the original tales to make them unique. :-)

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  3. I've been seeing this around but have not picked it up. I'm not overly familiar with the original Alice's Adventures (aside from the movie versions), but I do love the wonderland lore (for obvious reasons). Must pick this one up soon!

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    1. I really don't think I've read the original Alice In Wonderland either, but I think we're both probably familiar enough with it to enjoy this story. This is definitely a unique take on it!

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  4. I just love, love, love this book. At first I was a little nervous about jumping into teen drama, but I don't regret it at all. The story is so captivatingly upside down I couldn't take my eyes off it. Love triangles can take a backseat to what's going on in this book and it keeps you guessing all the way to the last page and itching for the next book. I ordered the second book before I finished the first and now I have to wait a whole year on edge for the third, I'm so bummed out. :(

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  5. I loved this book and couldn’t put it down until it was finished. I just purchased the second book in the series, Unhinged, and cannot wait to read it! I definitely recommend this book if you are looking for some adventure and another world to escape into for a few hours! An absolute lovely and exhilarating take on Alice in wonderland.

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