I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ensnared by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #3
Published by Amulet Books on January 6th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Source: the Publisher
After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She's determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world--a parallel dimension filled with mutated and violent netherling outcasts. In the final installment of the wildly popular Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that's gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But if they succeed and come out alive, can everyone truly have their happily ever after?
I adore this series. I’ve never made a secret of this. I described Splintered as “morbid, creepy, and utterly fascinating to read” and I stated that “A.G. Howard does magic, romance, and madness like no other” in my review for Unhinged. I had no idea what to expect from Ensnared. I was incredibly excited to read it, for obvious reasons, but when I pondered on how the story was going to end I blanked. Now I’ve read it, I truly would never have seen this coming.
While I loved Unhinged, I am so thrilled that Ensnared took place in Wonderland again. The twisting and bizarre world is back in its full glory: with its beautiful and creepy creatures that have this edge of insanity to them. We get to see Wonderland from a different angle, the looking-glass world–the parallel dimension filled with mutated and violent netherling outcasts. Everything described is just so wonderfully insane and bizarre that I just can’t help but love every single aspect of it. A.G. Howard’s writing and world building is so incredibly good. She has this way with words that make a story come alive.
Ensnared opened up with Alyssa’s dad’s story. Which is a great thing. Where Unhinged focussed a lot on her mom’s story, I’m incredibly happy that we get to know more about her father as well. I feel like parent’s often play a role in the background of the story. They’re there, but you don’t actually know much about them. I loved learning more about where her dad actually came from. We know Alyssa’s mom saved him from his fate in wonderland, but who was he before that? Ensnared holds the answers!
Alyssa became this whole new person. She’s developed so much since the first book, and in Ensnared she finally accepts her role as a Queen. She’s ready to take on Red, and she’s not going to back down. She’s embraced her responsibilities that come with her Netherling side. She’s darker, slightly more mad, and far more edgier than the girl we know from the previous books. She’s awesome.
Alyssa’s continuous struggle between Morpheus and Jeb was the one thing that had me worried. I couldn’t see how it would play out. I’ve been rooting for Morpheus since Unhinged. But then Jeb kinda grew on me again while reading the last book. Alyssa struggled, I struggled, and that got on my nerves because I don’t normally like love-triangles. Morpheus was his manipulative and wicked self. And I love his character, and his unpredictability. Jeb was distant. Which was a bit understandable, but he just wasn’t being fair. View Spoiler » I mean, he could accept Morpheus as a new friend, but he couldn’t forgive Alyssa? Those are some serious double standards. His attitude was extremely nasty at times and it was hard to like him when he was purposefully being mean. « Hide Spoiler
The ending. I’ve never seen an ending like this before. I think a part of me was expecting this to happen. It’s creative. But there’s this part of me that’s puzzled and a bit confused. View Spoiler » Maybe I would’ve liked for Alyssa to have picked one of the guys, because that’s what would happen in real life. « Hide Spoiler I don’t think this kind of ending has been done before. In the end, I think the ending fit the book. Creative, unexpected, and a bit bizarre. It fits with the wonderland A.G. Howard created.
Ensnared. But then again, I love the world and it’s characters. I absolutely love what A.G. Howard has done with the original tale. The ending was creative and while I have mixed feelings about it, it fit the madness of Wonderland. I love the Splintered series, and I loved Ensnared.
Unhinged by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #2
Published by Amulet Books on January 7th 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she's always dreamed of.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.
If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she'll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head
This series! It just keeps getting better and better! It’s just, all the feelings, and all the awesomeness and brilliantness in the way A.G. Howard created this slightly macabre version of the original story. I have so much love for the world and characters she created. It’s a favorite, both Splintered and Unhinged are just so magically mad that they really can’t belong anywhere else than on my favorites shelf!
I’ve said it before in my review for Splintered, but I’ll say it again, the writing is out of this world. It’s the writing that makes the story so powerful. It’s written so incredibly vividly, the whole story just comes alive with every word you read and page you turn.
Then for the plot, which is every bit as brilliant as in Splintered! There’s quite a few unexpected twists and turns along the way, and boy do they keep you on your toes! All the feels! I just kept on reading till early in the morning (that’s when I finished it… And would finally allow myself to get some shut eye).
Of course then we have ALL the characters. The beloved, mysteriously wicked, and deceiving Morpheus. The fierce, sometimes ignorant, and incredibly brave Alyssa. The loyal, a bit controlling, but edgy in a good way, Jeb. This time around there’s more attention paid to Alyssa’s family, we get to know her mother, as well as her father better. Family history gets revealed which adds more depth to Alyssa’s parents and does their characters justice. And of course, never to forget, all the other Wonderland creatures, all odd and slightly mad in their own way (some a bit more than the other…).
I think what I loved most about Unhinged is the contrast in setting compared to Splintered. While Splintered was set in Wonderland, Unhinged is set in our world. A.G. Howard literally brings the madness, with all it’s awesomeness and creepiness, to us.
A.G. Howard does magic, romance, and madness like no other. The world she created is addictive, beautiful and macabre, quite the combination that leads to a brilliant series that I absolutely LOVE. Ensnared can’t come fast enough!
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Published by Amulet Books on January 1st 2013
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
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
“Sweet mother of stuff and nonsense!” Can I profess my undying love for this book and its characters? Never mind, I am professing my undying love no matter what your answer will be, because this book is brilliance in the flesh. Splintered captivated me from beginning to end. It’s just completely original and the perfect ‘darker’ and twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. Brilliant!
A.G. Howards interpretation of Wonderland is stunning, as well as twisted and dark, but boy it is so beautifully and vibrantly written that one day after finishing this book I am still left reeling by the awesomeness of it all. I love how she managed to twist and turn so many aspects of the original Alice in Wonderland and makes the tale her own, but somehow still stays true to the original. There’s this never ending layer of mystery laced throughout the story that had me completely in its grip. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until I finished it (which was at 2.14 am to be precise).
Alyssa with her ability to hear voices of plants and insects (and her tendency to kill bugs and use them in her art) bring across this eerie and creepy sensation that fills every page from beginning to end. The slight madness to Alyssa’s desperation to not end up like her mother, fits the story and the feelings it evokes inexplicably well. She makes for such a unique and great protagonist. She’s spunky and artistic, as well as strong and brave. I admired her determination to find out who she is and to save her mother from the ‘curse’.
Then there is a love triangle… I can’t believe I am saying this, but I loved every single part of it. It just fits the of edge madness that shimmers behind the surface, coiled tight and waiting to pounce. I totally love and root for both guys. The, somewhat controlling, sweet and protective Jeb as well as the seductive, mysterious and manipulative Morpheus. While those don’t all sound like the best traits for a guy, there’s just no better way to describe them, you have to read the book in order to understand the allure (though I do have a favourite… I think)
And then ALL the other Wonderland characters! There’s so many of them, some well known through Carrol’s tale, but some new and ever so fascinating. There’s depth and multiple layers to almost every character (the awesomeness of it all makes my head spin!).
This retelling is hands down one of the best Alice in Wonderland retellings I’ve ever read. Morbid, creepy, and utterly fascinating to read!