Review: Splintered Series by A.G. Howard

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories, and honestly one of my favorite ideas. There’s something so purely magical about deserting real life by falling down a rabbit hole and discovering a fantasy world with playing card guards, a pool of tears, or a game of croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs as equipment.

I’ve read a fair amount of Alice retellings: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a prequel to how the Red Queen became who she is; Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, a story loosely based on its namesake about a girl who has to fight zombies; Alice by Christina Henry, a dark, twisted version about a girl who escaped Wonderland; to name a few. The difference between those and the Splintered series is that they all deviate so much from the original story that they lose a bit of the magic and spark that comes from the original.

Splintered is certainly darker than Alice in Wonderland, but what I loved about the franchise is that it works so heavily to incorporate the original themes, characters, and ideas into this story. When you’re so familiar with the story and world of Wonderland, the Splintered series feels a bit like coming home. Alyssa realizes that Lewis Carroll fluffed up the story for a little girl when he wrote it, whereas the real world of Wonderland is more sinister and scary.

I was drawn into Splintered immediately. I love the idea that Alyssa is a direct descendant of not the fantasy character of Alice, but of Alice Liddell, the girl who allegedly inspired the original story. The plot moved quickly and was packed with action all the way through. However, this was also a bit of a drawback for me. Everything happened so fast that I barely had time to process it before the story was moving on to something else. The ending lost me a bit, and I genuinely wasn’t sure what was happening anymore. I later found out it was originally not going to be a trilogy, and I think I would have enjoyed the overall story a lot more if this had been a standalone as planned.

Unhinged definitely suffered from middle-book syndrome. I enjoyed that the story focused on how Alyssa’s’ life outside the rabbit hole was affected by everything she’d done in and learned about Wonderland, but it was obvious the second book was just a rope tethering the first to the last. It was apparent she would wind up back in Wonderland, so this book felt a little unnecessary. I also felt like the love triangle here to be annoying, mostly because Alyssa had no respect for her relationship with Jeb. I think most readers found Morpheus to be attractive and wanted them to end up together, but I found him pompous and annoying.

Maybe it was bad of me to burn through the first two books so quickly, because Ensnared took me an embarrassingly long time to read. The plot moved so slowly compared to the other two books, because really there was no plot. Alyssa continued her debate about which guy to wind up with while her dad stood awkwardly in the background, quickly saved Wonderland, and that was that. I was frustrated with the way the story ended, because it let Alyssa have the best of both worlds. She never had to make any kind of sacrifices for the people she loved, and she never had to prioritize one life over the other. It was a lackluster ending after so much buildup.

After finishing Splintered and Unhinged, I rated both 3.5/5 stars. They had some minor setbacks, but I still really enjoyed the overall story. However, Ensnared was pretty bad, bordering on horrible, so I rated it 1.5/5 stars. Overall I would give the series a 3/5 stars. The cover art was gorgeous, I loved all the representation from the original story, it was the right amount of spooky without being overkill, and the plot was action-packed. However, it tended to lose me in some places, and nothing can forgive the poorly done ending of the trilogy.

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