The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire, #2)

Splintered by A.G. Howard
Pub­lisher: Amulet
Pages: Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Pub­li­ca­tion date: January 1st 2013

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.

I’m beginning to enjoy the madness. That’s not good. Not at all.

Long story short
Alyssa Gardner is the great-great-great-[lots of greats]-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland novel. Because of a curse that originates from Alice’s escape from Wonderland, Alyssa’s mother becomes insane and is committed into an asylum. Alyssa later finds out that there is a way of lifting this curse and saving her mother. All she has to do is follow the velvety voice that leads her back to Wonderland.

My thoughts
I was supposed to like Splintered. I was supposed to like it a lot. The bugs, the blood, the gore, the creatures. Everything is so similar to a video game called Alice Madness Returns. However, as Alice Madness Returns, the book is rather disappointing.

Actually, the game disappointed me more than the book, but let’s stick to the point. I could tell that something is wrong with Splintered since the beginning. The concept of the book is amazing, and the execution is close to perfect. All is well except for this itch that keeps on bothering me while reading it. The good news is that I know what the itch is. Or itches, in our case. The characters.

Let’s start with Alyssa. She is my biggest Splintered-related itch. Why? Because, like many other young adult protagonists, she annoys the crap out of me. Theoretically I was supposed to like her. Skater girl, good morbid side, artist. However, her attitude does not work for me. Most of the times she’s acting like a brat, and then a miracle occurs and she becomes the wisest creature in Wonderland. This more than ruined the story for me.

Actually, thinking about it, there are no good female characters in this book. The lead, Alyssa, is a stuck-up teenager that is pretty much annoying all the time. The soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend bitch, Taelor, who’s a mean asshole most of the times. The crazy mum who is.. well.. crazy all the time. And some other secondary characters who don’t get much development. They are evil, jealous, manipulative. No positives whatsoever.

And now the male characters. We get the best friend, Jeb, who's always treating Alyssa like a baby. He is sticking with his girlfriend because - oh noes! - he loves Alyssa too much. Fuck logic. He’s also a douche most of the times, ordering her around, taking decisions for her and all that. Meh.

Then we have the supernatural moth boy, Morpheus, who’s keen on bedding Alyssa the moment she steps into the same room as him. He’s also busy using her all the time, plotting and being a villain. Then he almost dies and all is forgiven.

But hold on kids! There is, in fact, a good male character in the book. Her father. I really liked him, even though Howard didn’t bother with developing him too much. Even so, I think he can be considered a decent character.

Back to our three main characters. Did you notice something? One girl and two boys. Do you know what this means?

Oh yes, my friends. A love triangle.

The typical Young Adult love triangle. The human boy versus the dark sexy moth-like creature. The love triangle bugs, pun not intended, the hell out of me. I feel like it’s taking away the dark feel of the story. Hell, it ruined the damn book for me. I hate hate hate HATE love triangles and this was an extremely frustrating one. Why? This is why:
Jeb is stable, strong, and genuine—my knight in shining armor. Morpheus is selfish, unreliable, and transcendent—chaos incarnate. Impossible to compare. Yet here I am, all of those things. Both light and dark at the same time. If I were to give in to one side of me, would that mean I’d have to give up the other? My heart aches at the possibility. Somehow I feel like I need both to be complete.

She is constantly jumping from one guy to another. And, of course, both of them will do anything to please the little plum. They will even die for her. They constantly snarl, growl and wave Alyssa around at each other. Next thing you know they’ll be having a pissing contest in order to see who will end up with the little Mary Sue. Ugh. Just cut the crap and focus with the story please!

Another problem I have, and this is a minor one so feel free to ignore it, is related A.G. Howard’s writing style. She is going for an extremely complex concept, and her style is a bit too simple for it. See, for example, Laini Taylor or Ekaterina Sedia, both authors having amazing writing styles. I think their style would match the dark Wonderland theme better than Howard’s.

To buy or not to buy?
Splintered is between the best Alice in Wonderland related books I’ve read so far. Howard did an amazing job with the concept of a dark and disturbing Wonderland. The story is captivating and offers a good plot twist at the end. It also offers an extremely frustrating love triangle and undeveloped characters that spoil the magic of the story. If you can ignore these negative elements, then you should totally give Splintered a try.

2.5 stars

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