Friday, 4 January 2013
Review: Splintered By A. G. Howard
I've never been a massive fan of the Alice in Wonderland tale. While I've always loved the aesthetics of Wonderland and the idea of it - when it came to the actual stories, I never particularly enjoyed them. The Alice in Wonderland Disney movie creeped the crap out of me as a kid - and not in a good way - and when I read the original book by Lewis Carroll a few years ago, I found only a few bright spots in an otherwise tedious tome. Still, when Tim Burton's adaptation came out, I was ridiculously excited - it looked like it would be the Wonderland tale to capture my heart. But again, the reality of it let me down. It had all the right ingredients, but there was still something off about it and I was very disappointed. Then, more recently, Splintered started doing the rounds in the book blogosphere. Many, many people raved about it. I became intrigued - could this finally be the right Wonderland for me?
After reading Splintered the answer is a resounding no. It bears a lot of similarities to Burton's Wonderland tale, including Alice's (or in this case, her successor Alyssa's) role in the story. But I liked Splintered even less. I did enjoy Howard's unique and dark take on Wonderland's creatures and landscape, and the plot itself (the female line in Alice's family is cursed until someone fixes the mistakes she made in Wonderland) has a lot of potential - but unfortunately this was all vastly overshadowed by weak, unlikable characters and an irritating love triangle. Without the romance - or at least with the romance taking a back seat - this could have been a great book, but as it is, the romance is front and centre and all I wanted to do was see its head chopped off by Queen Red.
Alyssa is a weak, passive character. Things happen to her, others control her, and she barely thinks for herself let alone acts. Towards the end she does grow and take action, but for me it was too little, too late. Her passiveness was reinforced repeatedly by the two douchebag love interests. Jeb, her best friend who is secretly in love with her but dating Alyssa's bully for who-knows-what reason, is a controlling, domineering dick. He, too, changes a little at the end, but again, it's too little, too late. Meanwhile, the other corner of this triangle, Morpheus, is an arrogant, creepy puppet-master pulling everyone's strings, but especially Alyssa's. He spends some of his time as a giant moth and used to be a caterpillar - THE Caterpillar. So not sexy.
The secondary characters are richly described in appearance but don't go much deeper than that. To her credit, Howard has a knack for details; her Wonderland leaps off the page thanks to her vivid, colourful descriptions. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to salvage the book for me. Strong characters will always win out over pretty descriptions, and although Splintered has a plethora of the latter, it has none of the former. This book really wasn't my cup of tea.
Published: January 2013, Amulet Books.
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.
Get It: Book Depository.