Splintered Series Review
Updated: Sep 26
If you're a big fan of Alice in Wonderland like I am, you probably go nuts any time there's a retelling on the market (which isn't all that often, sadly). I geeked hard when I stumbled upon A.G. Howard's gothic retelling Splintered. While I enjoyed certain aspects, I'm sad to say it has its problems.
So buckle up, buds, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Genre: Gothic fairytale retelling
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 2.5/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
Before I get too far in, I want to gush about how beautiful the books are. The covers are bold and whimsical, each installment printed in a deep shade of red, blue, or purple, and the chapter headings are decorated with gorgeous filigree.
Okay, fangirling over. Now, onto business.
How did Alice’s trip affect Wonderland? What if Wonderland followed Alice home? How would it affect her and her descendants? A.G. Howard explores these questions in her Splintered series, which follows Alyssa (a descendant of Alice) on her journey down the rabbit hole to break a curse plaguing the women in her family, which drives them mad as they begin hearing the voices of bugs and plants.
Doing so will not only prevent her from going mad but allow her to save her institutionalized mother. Of course, it isn't just her family that needs saving—Wonderland is also being threatened, and Alyssa's curse is tied to it. But she won’t have to do it alone; her best friend Jeb is pulled along for the ride. Upon arrival, Alyssa meets a strangely familiar Wonderland native—the mercurial Morpheus.
Unhinged (book two) spends more time in the human realm as Alyssa attempts to live some semblance of a normal life with her loved ones. However, Morpheus is not happy about this and does all he can to interfere, bringing Wonderland to Alyssa in hopes of forcing her to accept her nature and reenter the fight against the Big Bad. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Wonderland's dark nonsense against a modern reality backdrop, and seeing how Wonderlandians are affected by our world and its rules. Plus: badass masquerade prom battle!
While book two sees Alyssa grappling with a choice between two worlds, in Ensnared she is determined to have it all by saving and savoring both Wonderland and her home realm. She's ready for a final showdown, but with Wonderland blocked off, her only way in is by going through the looking glass world that parallels it.
Untamed is a novella that tells three separate stories, two of which are flashbacks and one being an epilogue to the series that tackles the love triangle.
Howard’s writing style is hit-or-miss, especially in the first installment. Sometimes the descriptions and plot points are great; other times, the plot is convoluted and confusing, and the dialogue is just bad.
I have VERY mixed feelings about the characters. They all have annoying aspects, while other parts are refreshing.
Alyssa is an artistic, tomboyish skater girl. As a “weirdo” in a small town in the Deep South, I could connect with her on certain levels. But she could be annoying, and I could not understand her obsession with Jeb.
Jeb's a decent guy with good intentions, but his overprotectiveness is annoying as hell. He gets a little better as the series progresses, especially when he ends up being the one who needs saving.
Morpheus is a fun character; the typical trickster bad boy with hidden intentions. Even though he's not entirely good, he is honest about it, and I liked him much more as a love interest.
I hate love triangles, and this one was painful. I was not a fan of how it played out or its resolution. Not only that, but Alyssa and her relationships are overly sexualized, especially considering Alyssa begins the series as a sixteen-year-old virgin who's never been kissed, and she doesn't sleep with anyone in any of the books. There are goofy, godawful make-out scenes; the making and gifting of lingerie; magic paint used to clothe someone whose garments were destroyed; lots of bad innuendos; terrible dialogue; and some moments that are downright cringey.
Unlike many YA books, both of Alyssa's parents are present in this series. They have their own issues and journeys to go through, but they're decent people who care for their daughter, and they're both a little badass.
My biggest complaint about the parents is that the portrayal of Alison’s stay at the asylum is sensationalized—in this day and age, no doctor would lock a woman in a straitjacket and padded cell for seven years and begin talks of shock therapy.
Howard’s Wonderland is dark yet whimsical, dangerous yet enchanting—everything you would want in a gothic Wonderland retelling. Zombie-like flowers, Alice's ocean of tears, a disturbing take on the White Rabbit, a freaky cemetery, and a messed-up tea party are a handful of the things to look forward to.
In addition to many of the familiar Wonderland elements, Howard uses less popular characters and aspects from the original stories, which I really appreciated.
I think Wonderland pulled a lot of the story's weight. I love Tim Burton's Alice movies, but I wouldn't mind a film/TV adaptation of this series so I could see this Wonderland with my eyes. It's my favorite written retelling of Wonderland (so far).
It's hard to rate this series because it definitely has its problems: annoying characters, a love triangle (one of my most hated tropes), cringey dialogue and romance, and confusing plot points. All that aside, I had fun reading the interesting takes and plot twists; badass visuals and action scenes; and a gothic Wonderland full of danger, grotesque horrors, magic, and enchantment.
I might have liked it more if it were an adult novel rather than YA, but alas.
I would recommend this to fellow Wonderland lovers, especially if you're willing to overlook the story's issues (and you may be cool with some of the parts I hated, who knows?), or anyone looking for a gothic fantasy/retelling. But if you're someone who has a hard time with the tropes or problems listed above, you might want to skip this series.
Thanks for bearing with me through all that! If you've read this series before or end up reading it, let me know how you felt about it in the comments below, or hit me up on our bookstagram or Twitter accounts.