Wonderland in the hands of A.G. Howard became a whole lot more grotesque and twisted than it already was when Lewis Carroll first imagined it. “Splintered” is a quasi sequel and adaptation of the much loved classic of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll; a modern-day tribute, if you will. Alyssa can not only hear animals but plants and objects too. Her way of silencing bugs in particular is to pour them into her art and making them part of her mosaics. After years of enduring such agony, she knows she needs to do something. Her mother has been institutionalized for those very reasons and Alyssa is afraid of ending up just like her. If she doesn’t stop it, this curse will catch up with her too as it has the rest of the women in Alice Liddell’s lineage.
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.
Alyssa’s mother has been sheltering Alyssa from the reality and magic of this under-land. It is no wonder Alyssa is terrified when she discovers that the stories of Alice are not fiction but were based on Alice’s true encounters that had taken place in a world far darker than Lewis Carroll once described. In order to restore her family, Alyssa has to pass tests to make right in Wonderland what Alice did wrong. Amidst her family predicament she is also faced with a romantic dilemma. She must decide for herself whom should she rightfully give her heart to: Jeb, a close friend from whom she has been hiding her feelings or Morpheus, her guide and apparent childhood friend.
Now, I love fairy tales. Even more so when they have twisted undertones and aren’t as innocent as one might think. The more un-Disney-like, the better. “Splintered” did not disappoint in that aspect. Wonderland came alive for me once again in a very fascinating way. Howard introduced her own creatures and described them in such great detail, they came alive on the page. The setting was very vivid, making it easy to immerse in.
Jeb didn’t entirely convince me though. I couldn’t quite see the need for Jeb during Alyssa’s adventures in Wonderland. Morpheus was her guide and his clues were directed at her. He had complete disregard for Jeb in the first place. Jeb made some parts a little cumbersome to read because he was so superfluous. But he did remind me that Alyssa is a lot older than Alice was. While I could have done away with all that romantic tension, Jeb embodied Alyssa’s earthly desires as opposed to her netherwordly ones. That somewhat made up for his existence.
Morpheus was dodgy. That made him intriguing. I wanted to know what he was hiding and why he was so fixated on Alyssa. He annoyed me at times with his smugness. This mixture of feelings he evoked within me just goes to show how multi-layered the characters that Howard created were.
Another aspect of the book that delighted me went beyond the story itself. The attention to design of the book itself is impeccable. The headers at the beginning of every chapter are reminiscent of the whimsical embellishments that often marked fairy tale books of the olden days. The colour of the font is purple instead of black which emphasized this other-wordly character of the story. In fact, the last page credits Maria T. Middleton for the design. This, for me, made the whole package complete.