Krista Reviews: A. G. Howard's - "Splintered"

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.

Hardcover, 371 pages  Published January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books  ISBN  1419704281 (ISBN13: 9781419704284)

I dare you to read this book and not have the imagery of great movies from Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Henry Selick (Coraline). This is definitely not a re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. This is a re-imagining. Everything that you have grown up knowing about the world from the tales of Lewis Carroll are so far from what this book represents that you will question everything you thought you have ever loved about the tale.

Alyssa is the great, great, great grand-daughter of Alice Liddell, the once naive young girl who recounted stories to Mr Lewis Carroll. Since Alice’s first venture into Wonderland, and her finding her way home, all of the females in her family have become cursed. It’s on one of Alyssa’s visits to her mother in the Asylum that things go wrong. Alyssa decides that once and for all the curse must be broken. She returns to Wonderland to release them from it.

Alyssa has always heard the insects talk to her; she collects them for her artwork. But when she sees a huge moth and decides to research it, she inadvertently calls it’s interest to her. It’s name is Morpheus, from Wonderland itself, and it has come to guide her. But before Alyssa can enter the mirrored gateway, her love interest and long-time neighbour Jeb shows up at her door. Never in her wildest dreams did she think that Jeb would jump after her into the hole. And now they must work together to break the curse and get home safely.

The creatures of A.G. Howard’s visions of Wonderland are very Gothic and more evil than I expected. The rabid rabbit (known by Alice as the White Rabbit because of his skeletal figure), is just one of the creatures that we think we know as readers of the original story – but with a difference. The creatures in this world are unique, horrific and sometimes enticing.

Alyssa must complete several tasks –  from quenching the hunger of the great Walrus, to fixing the watch at the tea party. Each task will take her and Jeb into more danger, especially because he doesn’t trust Morpheus. Morpheus seems to have another agenda.The danger is that Alyssa is strangely attracted to Morpheus and Wonderland is beginning to feel more like home.

This novel had more twists and turns than a roller coaster. As soon as I finished it, I picked up the audio-book, just because I felt like I missed too much the first time through. The imagery is amazingly eerily. When trying to compare it to the original work of Alice in Wonderland you can see how a young child might have construed these much darker characters and it makes sense. And it’s kind of scary. And there are more plot twists and story lines so that the ending makes for a huge “wow” moment. It’s going to make an amazing movie someday, great visuals and I highly recommend if you like dark twists to your stories.

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