Splintered is A.G. Howard’s debut novel. It’s a spin off to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for the young adult market. I was very excited for it when I saw the cover art and premise a while back. Alice in Wonderland is one of my all time favourite books.
In Splintered Alyssa, the great great great granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the infamous novel. Howard creates a curse that spans from generation to generation, affecting the woman in the family to suffer madness under the Wonderland delusion. Alyssa’s mother has been in a mental institution since she attacked Alyssa as a child with a pair of pruning shears. Alyssa visits her into her teens until she learns that her mother’s madness is based in a terrifying reality. Alyssa must travel into Wonderland to end her family’s curse. When her longtime friend, Jeb, falls down the rabbit hole with her it enacts a series of tests that they have to overcome.
There was something peculiar about this read other than the concept. Howard spends a lot of time info-dumping in the first 100 pages before Alyssa even gets near Wonderland. I think she was trying to establish the characters and Alyssa’s own world but it didn’t work. The characters ended up being wooden and flat. I never connected with Alyssa or Jeb as a result. The first 100 pages does a real disservice to the pacing of the novel. I was impatient to get to Wonderland. I found my attention waning – why set up all of this fore story that the reader will not be interested in? By the time I got into Wonderland itself Howard had an uphill battle to regain my attention, and she never really did. The only thing that kept me reading after page 150 was Morpheus. Morpheus, in this retelling, is the caterpillar and a secondary love interest for Alyssa. I wanted to love him but my hopes were soon dashed when he turned out to be two dimensional as well.
My theory halfway through the book was that this book was inspired by Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film that was done a few years back. The nebulous beginning details were established to differentiate it from that movie. If you head over to A.G. Howard’s website she clearly states that Burton’s film was a major influence for this book. And that’s fine, but there’s nothing that really sets the two apart enough other than the muddy beginning and the weak characters. It feels like a parody of his film (that wasn’t that great to begin with). It’s just not very good.
I wanted to love it, but I don’t. The visual imagery in this book is striking, that is true. However, it reminds me of big budget Hollywood films – all look and no soul. I was really disappointed.
2 out of 5 stars.