Author: A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA, Retellings, Fairy Tales
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 377, Paperback
Publication Date: January 01, 2013
My Rating: ★★★★½
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.
My friend recommended Splintered a while back, but with my already infinite TBR pile, I didn’t go out of my way to get it. To my utter surprise, my mom spotted it at a recent book fair for an unimaginably cheap price and it was such a steal that I now have 3 copies of it on my shelf.
Splintered is the first of three books in the Splintered series by A.G. Howard. The second being, Unhinged and the third, Ensnared. Alyssa is featured on the cover of Splintered, followed by Morpheus on Unhinged, and Jeb on Ensnared.
The book is told in the female protagonist, Alyssa’s POV. I found Alyssa’s character very relatable and at some parts I empathized with her. I like how she’s really strong but sometimes falters too, proves she’s human. Even so, there isn’t a point where she just breaks down and expects sympathy, her grief actually fuels her on. If you’re expecting a damsel in distress, think again, ’cause Alyssa is more than capable of saving herself. Throughout the book she really embraces reality and you don’t get that typical “denial phase”, even in the beginning where she hasn’t the slightest inkling who she really is and all signs point to her having the same fate as her mom. When she does figure out her true identity, she is mad at Morpheus for a reason I cannot explain without spoiling it. All things said, Alyssa was my favourite character.
Jebediah “Jeb” Holt is Alyssa’s best friend and long-time crush. In my opinion, Jeb was really over-protective, over-bearing and controlling. I also didn’t like the fact that he was dating a girl in an attempt to “runaway” from something, or rather, someone. True, the girl’s not exactly “nice” but I don’t think that’s a concrete enough reason to deceive her and play with her feelings. Don’t get me wrong, he’s wasn’t bad, he did have redeeming qualities about like nobility, kindness, loyalty and all the other stuff Alyssa sees in him. Fortunately, around the second half of the book he realizes that Alyssa’s a grown girl and is more than capable of fending for herself. I wouldn’t say his character was unnecessary, on the contrary, without Jeb a lot of things wouldn’t have been be the same, but for the better or worse, I can’t tell. In all honesty, I have mix feelings where Jeb is concerned, I mean, he does make a huge sacrifice.
Then there’s the mysterious, blue haired Morpheus, Alyssa and Jeb’s guide through Wonderland. A vow made it so that he wouldn’t be able to interact with Alyssa, who was only a kid at the time, but there’s always a loophole, right? He spent most of his “childhood” with her and I thought that 7-year-old Morpheus was really sweet and joyful. The best way to describe Morpheus at present is as a devious, secretive netherling who has much more kindness in him than he lets on. Occasionally you do get little glimpses of sincerity and tenderness, mostly towards Alyssa. I didn’t get much of Morpheus’s personal story in Splintered, I just know that he’s a trickster and has tricked Alyssa on multiple occasions. Oh, and he’s exceptionally skilled at emotionally manipulating her. I’m hoping the sequel will enlighten me as Morpheus is on the cover.
Of course, those 3 characters mentioned above make up the book’s love triangle. You’ve got Jeb, the super protective best friend, Morpheus, the enigmatic childhood friend, and Alyssa, the girl of their interest. It’s quite apparent to me that she prefers Jeb, but has certain feelings for Morpheus too. It made sense that she didn’t just jump into a relationship with either of them. Now, it’s time to see which guy caught my attention and I’d like to see Alyssa with. First off, kudos to Jeb for finally having faith in Alyssa. Hat’s off to Morpheus for always believing in her. 1 point for Morpheus. But then again, Morpheus has often been caught withholding information from her. Whereas, Jeb has almost always been completely honest with her. That earns you 1 point, Jeb! Thirdly, they both selflessly sacrificed themselves for Alyssa’s sake. 1 point each for both guys. Then, in terms of knowing and understanding Alyssa, they both know different aspects of her. Morpheus knows and gets the hidden part of her that no one else does. Jeb on the other hand, leans towards knowing and understanding the more human side of her. 1 for Morpheus, 1 for Jeb. So that leaves Morpheus with 3 points and Jeb with 3 too, it’s a tie! If I’m being completely honest right now, I find I’m swaying more towards Morpheus than Jeb, but things could change after reading Unhinged and Ensnared. Till then, I’m Team Switzerland…. Scratch that, I’m rooting for Morpheus.
The first quarter of the book is set in fictional Pleasance, Texas. Once she jumps into the rabbit hole, it’s Wonderland all the way until the last few pages. Keep in mind that this rendition of Wonderland is more creepy, dangerous and enchanting than the original and when paired with the author’s amazing way of describing the landscape, there’s really no denying the talent that is A.G. Howard. She’s really detailed with the descriptions, which makes the readers feel like they’re in Wonderland seeing what Alyssa sees, feeling what she feels. Her Wonderland left me like, whoa… It was haunting, twisted and magical, everything I expected and more. I was intrigued by the inhabitants, the landscape and the very essence of Wonderland. There is absolutely nothing I would change about the setting. Nothing.
This book’s plot is a force to be reckoned with, no kidding. Only a rare few people actually think about Alice after Wonderland and about her descendants. In the book, Alyssa is often seen seeking guidance from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, so it’s obvious the author is in no way trying to replace the classic, and is instead delving deeper into it and paying tribute to the original. I’m not sure if I should be surprised that even with all the tweaking done, she somehow managed to stay true to the classic while making it her very own original story. What I did not expect was the plot twist, that freaking plot twist had me gaping like a fish out of water, trying to figure out how I didn’t see that coming. I mean, yeah, I figured out some of it, but I was still pretty much struck stupid by certain parts of it. I have Morpheus to thank for that particular moment, never a boring day with him.
All in all, Splintered is probably one of the most jaw dropping, fascinating, magnificent spin on a timeless classic I have ever read. I would recommend it to people who enjoy a good adventure down the rabbit hole and fans of whimsical tales. Seriously, get this book!
Have you read Splintered? If you have, what did you think of it? Would you read the sequel? If you haven’t read it, would you give it a shot? Oh and who was your favourite character? Was it Alyssa, Jeb, or perhaps, Morpheus? Let me know in the comments! Hugs!