Saturday, 4 April 2015

'Splintered' (Splintered #1) by A. G. Howard

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way to stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.' 

I first heard of the 'Splintered' series a couple of months after the first book was released, but when I learned that it was going to be a trilogy I decided to wait until all three books were out before I would start to read them. After picking up the third book in the series, 'Ensnared', from a charity shop late last month, I thought now would be the perfect time to get the other two out of the library and to immerse myself in this world. 
'Splintered' is a sort of retelling, sort of sequel of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland'. Our protagonist, Alyssa Gardner, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, and insanity runs in her family. She has been able to hear plants and insects since she hit puberty. Her grandmother jumped out of a window in hospital, determined that she could fly. Her mother has been locked up in a mental asylum for the majority of Alyssa's life, after injuring Alyssa during one of her delusional episodes. All of these aspects mean that Alyssa is used to being called crazy: her classmates know about her link to Wonderland, and teenagers are cruel, meaning that they tease her at every opportunity. Alyssa keeps herself to herself, making amazing mosaic artwork pieces using only dead beetles, apart from her best friend Jen, and Jen's brother Jeb, who are her only real friends. 
First things first, I need to say how absolutely brilliant the front cover of this novel is. Having Alyssa surrounded by plants and bugs is a beautiful touch, and it really does immerse you into the story from the moment that you pick it up. I love it when book covers have such perfect attention to detail, so that was something that I definitely appreciated here. Another thing I also adored was the fact that all of the text was purple! That was a special touch that I'd not seen in another book. 
The book develops really quickly at the start, with Alyssa getting her quest from her mother - she needs to find the rabbit hole, go to Wonderland and fix the wrongs that Alice made, and then her mother should go back to being a lucid and level-headed woman. After finding a mysterious key and receiving guidance from the moth who has guided her and been her friend throughout her childhood, Alyssa quickly finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. There was just one little aspect she hadn't anticipated - Jeb tumbling down after her. 
It was one of the first things that really conveyed how different this book was, the fact that the main characters love interest didn't willingly offer to go on her journey with her, but instead got accidentally roped into it. It seemed a lot more realistic and that fact made it a lot more enjoyable. Instead of it just being Alyssa who didn't now what was going on and who was rattled by the developments, Jeb was too - instead of being the cool and collected boy in charge, he in fact was much more frustrated and confused at the beginning of the novel. I really enjoyed the developments that both of them went through in the novel, individually and together, because it was great to see Alyssa go from the girl who wanted help to the girl who knew her own mind and knew exactly what she needed to do. Similarly, I was impressed by how Jeb's transformation was written; how he went from treating Alyssa like a weak little girl to actually understanding the fact that she could fend for herself and she needed his support rather than him to save her.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I was anticipating to, because there were aspects that did get a bit confusing. Due to the discrepancies and alterations between the Lewis Carroll version and this one, there were some bits of the story that felt lost in translation, and there were some passages that had me stumped on the first few readings, until I went back a bit further and unravelled what was happening once more. There were also a lot of clues put throughout the book to let you work out what was going on for yourself, and while they all made sense and slotted together in the end, it just made the development of the novel seem a bit too convoluted. 
However, overall I really did like it. Too many retellings make the stories nearly identical, so it was great that the Wonderland characters were so utterly twisted, dark in a completely gothic way, making it a completely unique construction. Some of the scenes sent shivers down my spine, freaking me out in a way I hadn't been expecting, and I always love it when a book can evoke such emotion in me. The characters were all flawlessly described, from the ferret-like man with his visible brain, to Mr Hattington and the conformateur springing out of his head, and they really do all come to life with A. G. Howard's writing. The scenery and landscapes are also treated with reverence; none of the descriptions of settings are throwaway, unnecessary moments, because all of the information that we get given becomes relevant in some way, shape or form.
Another thing that A. G. Howard took a lot of time with was the development on the relationship between Alyssa and Jeb. Too often in YA novels there's the will-they-won't-they question with the main character and their love interest, and the tension gets resolved super quickly and they move on together, but in this book the building of tension and the question over Alyssa and Jeb was an exciting plot line in itself. Instead of being insta-love, it took a while and they had their issues in the way, and I'm excited to see what happens in the next two books, with the question of Alyssa's attraction to Morpheus still hanging dangerously in the air. 
Despite the fact that the first book wraps up extremely well, I'm very excited to see where A. G. Howard takes this series in the following two novels, and I'm going to be picking up the second one within a week, because I am very excited. There's a lot of questions that still need to be answered in Alyssa's life, and there's so much potential with this series that I sincerely hope it can fulfill it.


  1. I'm so excited for this book, like you, I chose to wait until all books came out but since then I heard so many mixed things about it that I wasn't so sure about picking it up despite the gorgeous cover. Based on your review it sounds really good, not perfect but definitely worth reading. Plus I love retellings, more so if they are sort of sequels.
    Lovely, review and blog. :)
    Veronika @ Reading Is Dreaming With Open Eyes

    1. I'd definitely heard varied things about this book - some of the reviewers whose opinions I really trust and respect hated it, but one of my best friends enjoyed it and told me that I had to read it, and I'm glad that I did!
      I think it's going to be one of those series that gets better with each installment, so I'm looking forward to starting the second book in a couple of days. :)
      I can't wait to hear what you think of it!