Titles: Splintered, Unhinged, Ensnared
Author: A. G. Howard
Publication dates: 2013-2015
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Retelling
Synopsis: Alyssa Gardener has always been afraid of ending up in an asylum like her mother who spends her days having tea parties, talking to the bugs, and dressed like Alice from Lewis Carroll’s book. This “curse” has afflicted Alyssa’s family ever since her ancestor, Alice Liddell herself, inspired Carroll’s novel.
When Alyssa’s mother’s mental health becomes so bad the only option is electroconvolsive therapy Alyssa learns Wonderland is a real place. Desperate for another solution to her mother’s mental health and to prevent herself from ending up there herself she must travel into Wonderland and complete a series of tests to break the curse Alice brought upon her decedents.
Review: I had a hard time getting into the first book, but ultimately really enjoyed it. The story begins by talking about our protagonist’s use of bugs in artwork. Being not too fond of bugs myself, I found this habit creepy rather than endearing.
The world-building in this series is a lot of fun. A. G. Howard’s vision of Wonderland was rich and well imagined. I liked how it was essentially a blend of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with fairies, but not Disney fairies, the tricky, untrustworthy type.
Due to this fairy element this series reminds me of The Iron Fey. I read the first book of The Iron Fey, The Iron King, after having read the first two books in this series and was immediately struck by the simulates. This is not to say the two books are copies of one anther, both series draw on much of the same mythology and it is likely their similarities occurred merely by chance.
My biggest pet peeve in this series was the love triangle. It was practically a constant competition between the main character’s two love interests to the point that it often overshadowed the plot, particularly in the third book.
The family dynamic in this book was great. In too much YA the main characters family and the rest of his/her life before are entirely neglected by the author as though they never occurred at all. In this book, however, the main character’s family life and personal history were what set the plot in motion.
In the second book I wanted to see more of Wonderland. Much of the book took place on Earth which I didn’t care about too much. Unhinged, unlike the first book, drew me in almost at once, and kept my attention.
The final book in this series was too focused on the love triangle for my liking, though I enjoyed the world-building and getting to see new places like I’d wanted more of in book two. I still enjoyed Ensnared, just not as much as the first two.
Favorite Quote: “Tearing down the rest of the world won’t make you happy. Look inside yourself. Because finding who you were meant to be? What you were put into this world to do? That’s what fills the emptiness. It’s the only things that can.”
― A.G. Howard, Splintered
What Readers Should Know: There are some references to sex, and some of the characters sleep beside one another in bed together but no sex actually occurs. There is some cursing but it is infrequent and PG-13. There are references to violence and blood, but none are gory.
Rating: Splintered on it’s own would get a 4 for it’s ultimately captivating storyline but slow beginning. Unhinged would get a 4.5 for being captivating throughout but not enough forward motion in the plot, and Ensnared would get a 3.5 because although I enjoyed the story and world-building the love triangle felt too overpowering without serving any real purpose in the plot.
I recommend this series to people looking for something similar to The Iron Fey and fans of retellings of classic tails.