Publisher: Amulet Books
Released: January 1st 2013
Pages: 377 (Uncorrected proof)
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.
When I missed out on receiving this book from Netgalley, I was gutted - as a lot of people know, I have an obsession with Alice in Wonderland, and love remakes of Lewis Carroll's original novels, whether that be a book, film, or game. So imagine my delight when I receive an ARC in the post - I think I just about burst everyone's eardrums with my squeals! I couldn't wait to start it.
Splintered tells the tale of one of Alice Liddell's descendants, a girl named Alyssa, as she ventures out to Wonderland to try and break the curse that has been plaguing her family for generations, every since Alice fell down the rabbit hole. However, things aren't as lovely as they seem in the fairytale, and as Alyssa ventures deeper into Wonderland's heart, she begins to discover secrets that could tear her world apart.
Although I loved the synopsis, I was admittedly worried. With a lot of fairytale retellings, the blurb tends to promise things that the book just doesn't deliver. Over the years, a lot of different authors have tried to recapture the magic and madness of Carroll's tale, many trying to twist it into something much darker. Needless to say, a lot of them failed, leaving a lot of readers wanting more. I felt that Howard delivered this - her recreations were actually scary, and if I found myself face-to-face with them, I would genuinely be terrified. I love how she twisted them slightly to make the reader believe that Carroll's story was still true, but through Alice's horror, she forgot how grotesque and deformed the creatures really were - for example, instead of the compulsive and lovable White Rabbit, there's the loyal but creepy Rabid White. Howard managed to stick to the facts of the original story whilst changing Wonderland into something unique and her own. It is definitely one of the better retellings that I have read.
Continuing on from that, I adored Howard's recreations of some of my favourite characters. I especially loved what she did with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee - just a minor spoiler alert, but they are spiders! How cool is that? I thought her characterization of the Red and White Queen's were slightly off - Red was still quite crazy which I liked, but White, although still very regal and delicate, was far too whiny and pathetic, which was a disappointing interpretation for someone I always thought as quite intelligent and intimidating.
Unfortunately, I didn't like the main three characters. Alyssa wasn't too bad, but she just didn't capture my imagination. I feel like Howard had an interpretation of what she wanted this recreation of Alice to be like - quite hardcore, a bit of a punk, and obviously quirky and loved by everyone - and I think she tried too hard to achieve that. I mean, the image I've got in my head of Alyssa is something along the lines of a cyber goth - I tried to find a picture, but I couldn't find a blonde girl with red, blue, and purple dreadlocks in her hair, wearing stripey tights and a corset. I think she was a bad recreation. I also didn't like Jeb - again, Howard went for the 'goth'/'emo'/'bad boy' look - oooh look, he has a labret and long black hair; he's such a badass! No, it doesn't work like that. I liked his love and affection for Alyssa, but combined with his portrayal, I just ended up hating him.
Now, in a love triangle, you usually like one of the boys fighting for the girls love. I hated both of them. Yes, Morpheus - the dark and mysterious netherling who haunts Alyssa's dreams - sucked. He sucked big time. Howard built him up well - dark wings, dark eyes, a seductive voice, and a strange protectiveness over Alyssa? Yes please! However, he turned out to be some pale, blue-haired idiot, who has black spirals and jewels - yes, JEWELS - surrounding his eyes! And guess what - the jewels are colour-changing depending on his mood! Morpheus is basically a mood-ring in humanish form! My inner seven-year-old is squealing with excitement - however, my sixteen-year-old self is shuddering with repulsion. No one can have a book crush on a guy like that - and to top it all off, he is a major jerk with a personality that changes every five seconds, which isn't very appealing. I'm all for a bad guy, but he's about as bad as a pack of glittery stickers.
I don't want to give this novel a bad review, and so far, it seems all I have done is whine. In all honesty, the book had a lot more good things about it than bad - Howard's writing was easy to read, the language collaborated well with the original story, the plot was fantastic, captivating and quick-paced, and the cover art...dayuuuum. I don't care if that isn't a word, because DAYUM the cover is breathtaking! I think it sums up the story perfectly - the different bugs, the flowers, the vines - and the girl, looking like Alice Liddell come to life...it's the perfect cover. I just wish I had seen the Alice on the front as the Alyssa in the story.
Overall, I guess I was disappointed by the book, but I think that was because I set my hopes high on being absolutely absorbed by this read - as in, I thought that I wouldn't be able to put it down. Turns out, that was quite easy to do, and I didn't find that thrill within me to keep on reading. I think that was down to the characterization - if you don't gel with the main characters, you won't like the story - it's that simple, and although this is one of the better retellings that I have read, that inability to bond with the characters just ruined it for me. However, I do recommend this book - I think if you love Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, you should at least give this a try. It is a read for Wonderlandians, fantasy-lovers, and those who adore dark twists to your favorite fairytales. Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me.