Review: Splintered / Author: A. G. Howard / Publisher: Abrams / Release Date: January 1st
Love triangles, teenage angst and Alice In Wonderland. A.G Howard's Splintered seems to have its eye firmly upon the increasingly lucrative young female audience. 'I think,' I thought, picking up Splintered as a too-adult male who finds Alice In Wonderland to be a bit tiresome, 'I made a mistake'. Splintered will suit its target audience very well, but does it have much to offer anyone else?
Alyssa is a great-great relative of Alice Liddell, the young protagonist of Alice In Wonderland. Victim of a family curse incurred by Alice's adventures in wonderland, Alyssa's burgeoning womanhood may threaten to send her quite mad. Mother Alison is incarcerated in an asylum, terrible voices whispering sweet nonsense into her ear. As Alyssa begins to hear those same voices, she realises that only a trip down the rabbit hole can hope to cure what ails her. Accompanied by her annoyingly perfect best friend Jeb, she ventures into Wonderland to face her demons.
With its twisted version of Lewis Carroll's classic, Splintered is strangely reminiscent of American McGee's Alice videogames. Most of the characters and locations from Carroll's novel return, but in grisly deviations of what you might expect. So the White Rabbit becomes a horned dwarf sort of thing (well, it might have looked like a rabbit to young Alice) and so on. New characters are introduced too, most notably Morpheus – one third of the book's very prominent love triangle.
Snide, sneaky Morpheus is obviously designed to fit the Team Edward archetype – dark, smug and a bit of a bastard – while Jeb – sweet and attentive – is The Team Jacob. The book skews more towards a preference for Jeb, but all three of them are fairly horrible. Heroine Alyssa is prone to melodrama. While she's more proactive than Twilight's Bella, she still complains far too much. The book tends to emphasise Jeb's heroism by having him rescue her all the time (or at least attempt to) and treat her like a helpless child. His nice guy act, however, is completely undermined by the fact he constantly flirts with Alyssa despite the fact that he has a girlfriend. Morpheus, meanwhile, is boring despite his English accent and 'dark' affectations. A trio of less likeable characters one could not hope to meet.
In spite of its obnoxious love triangle, Splintered deserves to be read. It does a better job of a 'dark' Wonderland than either McGee's Alice or Tim Burton's recent sequel. There are good ideas and some creepy imagery at play here. It's also refreshing that Howard doesn't attempt to emulate Carroll's style of writing, which can come across as horrible in the wrong hands. It's a brief read with a quick pace and interesting story. In spite of its flaws, Splintered is well written and engaging. The characters may not be likeable, but the world in which they find themselves is a truly memorable one. Even today, Wonderland proves that it has the power to enthral new visitors. Curiouser and curiouser.