With the recent release of the Alice in the Looking Glass movie, I thought this post was particularly appropriate. Yes, the film flopped, but I still thought it was a good connection to the Splintered Series by Anita Grace Howard. Fortunately, this series has fared much better than the movie, and rightly so: A.G. Howard is a brilliant author.
This series is officially a Gothic YA Alice in Wonderland spinoff, which I suppose is true, but it is so much more than that. The stories follow Alyssa Gardener, who can bugs and flowers whisper in her ears. This is exactly what left her mother in a mental hospital years ago. In fact, this stretches back through years and years of ancestors, all the way to Alice Liddell, who was Lewis Caroll’s muse. For now, all Alyssa can do to silence the whispers is create artwork. Morbid artwork with a string of corpses in her wake. But all this shifts when one day, the mental health of Alyssa’s mother takes a turn for the worse. Alyssa learns that Wonderland is real, but it is not the fantasyland that Lewis Caroll paints. No, it is much darker and much more twisted. Alyssa is plunged into a series of quests, tests, and battles, and every minute, it is harder to find out who she can trust. Every time she thinks she has broken free from Wonderland, she is ensnared once again. There truly is no escape. But is that a bad thing?
I’ll admit it. Half the reason I continued these books was for the romance. The two love interests, Jeb and Morpheus, were both so dreamy! (I am Team Morpheus with no exceptions.) Okay, but putting aside their appearances, I thought it was so interesting how each one appealed to a different side of Alyssa: one for her human, more innocent side, and one for the darker and wilder side that belongs in Wonderland. This contrast was intriguing, and I loved seeing Alyssa’s development and struggle throughout the series in trying to pick, and eventually balance, her two natures. It was an interesting message: light cannot exist without the dark. I also enjoyed how the stories were not a retelling of the classic Wonderland story, but instead built around it. They obviously had nods to Lewis Caroll, but the books exist almost independently. There were so many other elements woven in, such as faeries and classic nursery rhymes and wordplay, which made the story really come to life. And the scenery! To me, A.G. Howard’s descriptions were so vibrant and vivid, which really helped me get a sense of her re-imagined Wonderland. Last but not least, the covers are gorgeous! They’re what compelled me to pick up the books in the first place, and I thin the cover designers really did a good job of evoking the story.
I know this review is kind of long, but I really have so much love for this series! It’s perfect in so many ways, so if you’ve ever loved Alice in Wonderland, even a little bit, go ahead and give these books a try!