Splintered by A.G. Howard

Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Amulet Books
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Amazon
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

SUMMARY

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.

Here’s the thing: Splintered is every bit as imaginative and visceral as Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice. Anyone who would endeavour to read this book would surely be amazed by the intricate and descriptive world the author has created. But for someone who hasn’t read the original work this book was based on, reading it might just be a daunting task.  
The onslaught of vivid creatures and enchanting world was a bit overwhelming – in particular the chapter titled, The Feast of the Beasts, which was really the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t really get the purpose of this dinner. It was a cornucopia of every creature that ever resided in Tim Burton’s head. The monster that Morpheus sat her with was supposed to be one of the most menacing and was a test as to how Alyssa could handle herself. She sat beside him and had a little convo. Soooo that’s it? That was the test? Did I miss it?
As much as I’d like to praise the author for having such an inventive imagination (and truly, she does), I’m sorry to say that all it did was frustrate me. And because she put a lot of effort in making sure the readers know exactly what the creatures looked like, she had used a lot of as if and like. Does that make sense? This book was like a mass hysteria of creatures in a fantasyland. The author wasn’t really successful in telling a seamless story – bridging all the fantastical aspects that the reader could follow easily.  I couldn’t focus on one thing because it was a barrage of EVERYTHING coming at me all at once. It was vivid (sorry, I’ve misused, abused this word in this review but I can’t find another alternative to describe it), colourful, and a feast for the reader’s imagination and yet it failed to wow me. Half the time, I kept finding myself dazed, asking: wait, what am I reading again?
The pace of the story was perfect in the beginning but it lagged when Alyssa got to Wonderland. I was bombarded with back stories and memories that didn’t really help with my already growing confusion. This didn’t really make sense because some readers would say that this is when the story actually took flight. For me, I just wanted to get Alyssa going. I wanted her to get on to the actual quest. This really bogged me down. I started this book as soon as I got approved from Net Galley (October 11ish) and I sailed through half of it in no time. But by the time Alyssa and Jeb fell down the rabbit hole, it had become a series of starts and stops for me.
Another aspect of this story that frustrated me was her fascination with Morpheus. They shared some sort of past through hallucinations dreams but it was all muddled. Because Morpheus has been alive ever since the curse started, the memories were a bit messy. It’s hard to know which of the Lidells was doing what at any given flashback. I also don’t get the appeal of this sinister creature. I don’t get Alyssa’s jealousy over Morpheus’ affection with the Ivory queen. I don’t get his pull and I don’t get why Alyssa was so taken with him. What he had to do near the end of the book didn’t really make up for all the dubious things he did to coerce Alyssa to Wonderland. 
In the novel, bits and pieces of Lewis Carroll’s Alice were written in as her clues. And this is where someone who’d not read the book would perhaps be at a lost. There’d be characters that were mentioned that I am not familiar with – which was pretty much everyone: Herman Hattington, all the queens, the rabbit. It got too confusing that I wasn’t able to recognize who were an original cast and who were created by the author herself. I think it’s a major stumbling block for me. This is unfortunate because AG Howard can clearly write. With an imagination such as hers, she’ll flourish quite effortlessly in fantasy. I just hope it won’t be as overpopulated with mythical creatures, so to speak.
But hey, this book is brilliant, all right? I love the twist and how she wove her own yarns into the classic. I just wasn’t able to appreciate its grandiose world because, really you need to read Alice in Wonderland or watch some sort of interpretation of it in film. I was a chicken with my head cut off reading this book. Besides the fact that I do not like love triangles and consequently a character who finds herself waffling between two guys, this book was just – all over the place for me. However, I stand by my #reviewsontherun on Instagram that this book is IMAGINATIVE. VIVID. 
  • Very good review 🙂 I’m reading this at the moment and while I can say I do love it, I am a bit torn in places. It’s off to a great start, but certain things are bugging me 🙁

  • Okay so this book was a total case of cover love for me. Not that I didn't like the description because the promise of madness entices me but I was drawn in by the colours and design of the cover. I haven't read the original Alice in Wonderland and after your review I'm kind of worried… However I am still very determined to get this one and love it!! Great review as always <3

  • Imaginative and vivid sounds great. Glad you enjoyed despite the issues.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  • The love triangle part was a little tame. The problem is that I didn't get Alyssa's feelings toward Morpheus. I have a feeling the deeper we get into this series, the more frustrating their relationship would be. Sigh.

  • Good luck! I've not seen the films either so I didn't fare well. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Yeah. It was too daunting for me. But I really can't deny how talented the author is. Thanks, Emily!

  • Maybe. But if you've read the original, you may not be as lost as I was.

  • I too, have read Shadows of the Moon and didn't even realize it was a retelling. There are myths and literary classics retellings that if done properly, it doesn't confuse the readers. I guess the biggest problem I had with this book is that the author wrote it in such a way that there's an underlying assumption that the readers know what went on in the original.

    Thanks, Maja!

  • Great review, Joy 🙂 I do agree with you, about some things ;p Although this book didn't confuse me as much as it did you when I read it. At least, not that I remember (A) lol. But I can understand why you were confused by it 🙂 Still, glad you liked it a little bit, at least 😉

    While I did enjoy this book, and gave it four stars, because I loved the plot and the world. But I hated the goddamn love triangle shit. Didn't approve that much of the ending, even though it was kind of good. Sigh. Just, it might have been a five star book if there hadn't been a triangle. 🙂
    Love, Carina

  • I got this one from NetGalley and was excited about it as I love retellings. I haven't read the original Alice in Wonderland but I've watched both Tim Burton's and the Disney movie so I hope I won't be as confused as you. *Fingers crossed!*

  • I had the exact opposite experience with this book, I loved it! I have read the original story though so maybe that is why the plot didn't feel so jumpy to me. The Lewis Carroll version is written very much in this style moving from one action to another. Hopefully Howard's next novel will suit your fancy =)

    Emily @ Falling For YA

  • I am torn now, J.! Maybe I'll wait until it's in the library to pick it up. The cover really drew me in… 🙁

  • Hmmm, I'm not at all sure this would be for me. I generally try to stay away from retellings since I really don't see the point of writing or reading them. I only ever liked one (Shadows of the Moon), but it was so far removed from the original that it doesn't even count as a retelling. I get what you're saying about this being hard to understand for those who aren't that familiar with Carroll's classic, and that's a major issue too.
    Great review, though!