As the market today is rather saturated in the genre, I am not generally a reader of modern fairy tale renditions. Yet, I was drawn to the cover of this urban teen fantasy, Splintered (2013) by A. G. Howard, a novel based on Alice in Wonderland. When I opened it up and began reading, I was hooked from the first sentence.
Alyssa Gardner is a smart and determined goth/glam skater girl who lives with her father in a small Texas town. Her mother, a direct descendant of Alice Liddell – the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – has been living in an insane asylum for the last eleven years. But she’s not really insane. At the coaxing of Alyssa’s childhood guide – a blue moth who can transform into a very sexy netherling – Alyssa and her longtime crush, Jeb, must journey down the rabbit hole into Wonderland to repair the messes Alice Liddell left behind… or so they think.
In Howard’s rendering, Wonderland is gothic and macabre, with some terrifying creatures and twisted magic. Lewis Carroll fans will appreciate the quotes and plot references from his famous “Jabberwocky” poem. Alyssa’s guide, the moth/netherling Morpheus, was by far the most complex, entertaining and intriguing character. He was irresistibly sexy and well-written, although his constantly shifting motivations and ambiguity felt inconsistent at times. As well, the plot became a bit convoluted in the second & third acts, and detailed action sequences with frequent game-changing revelations made it difficult for me to follow along after a while.
As for Howard’s prose itself: it’s addictive, skilled and uniquely creative. I found myself rereading sentences just to marvel at the beauty of her descriptions and word choices. Her style is artistic – the reader can tell Howard has a keen eye for fashion and the visual arts. Her dialogue is also exceptional. Howard is a talented writer who’ll do well with her trilogy for fans of teen urban fantasy and gothic fairy tale retellings.