a.g. Howard

Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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Book Review: Unhinged

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Unhinged by A.G. Howard – Paperback, 387 pages – Published December 17th 2013 by Scholastic Australia

Ah, the cliffhanger!

As you probably know, I am completely infatuated with anything Wonderland, hence my love for A.G. Howard’s Splintered series. At first, I didn’t know there were more books – I just thought Splintered was a lone novel. Imagine my joy when my dad bought the whole series!

So following Alyssa’s adventure down the rabbit hole last summer, Unhinged follows the netherling queen through her day-to-day human life. As she vowed last summer, she hasn’t used a single insect in her artwork – in fact, her mosaics are now being created out of her own blood. Thanks to her crown magic, these pieces feature images from the future, but Alyssa doesn’t know their true importance quite yet.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but Morpheus arrives in the human realm – and he isn’t alone. As the queen of the Red court, Alyssa must save Wonderland – and defeat Red. It doesn’t sound easy, and yet it still proves easier said than done.

Worst of all, it isn’t just Wonderland that is now in danger. The whole of the human realm is now at risk, thanks to the netherlings that have left the rabbit hole. Alyssa’s boyfriend goes missing, and her mother’s secrets begin to emerge, giving a new depth to Alyssa’s problems.

I really do love this series. The Wonderland vibe has really been captured, with all its great eccentricity intact. Every little twist on the classic novel is fantastic, and every character is so wonderfully unique.

Expanding on my point about the characters, I am even more in love with Morpheus than I was at the end of the first book. His mixed emotions continue throughout the book, but there are some lovely insights into his true feelings. There is such a great depth to Morpheus’s character! Alyssa realises that too, and her own feelings begin to surface more after she is told of Ivory’s vision.

Jeb is clearly very fond of Alyssa, but he’s caught up in his own little situation with his artwork. This leads to a little bit of trouble… But once he has his memories of Wonderland back, Jeb is back to being overly protective of his girlfriend. He’s as defensive in this sequel as he was in the first book.

And Alyssa. Ah, Alyssa… She’s finally accepted her mad side. She’s accepted herself for all that she is, and although she faces a few rough patches, this acceptance helps her through her battle. But as much magic as Alyssa uses, there’s nothing she can do to change the fate of her friends and family…

The ending was superb. Like last time, I just want to read on! I wasn’t expecting Alison, Morpheus and Jeb to all get taken away, and I was certainly not expecting Alyssa to end up in her mother’s shoes – or rather, her straitjacket.

As expected, this book joins Splintered in my favourites list. It’s wonderfully weird, even without Alyssa falling down the rabbit hole. The characters are fantastic, and each netherling is so unique and crazy and great. 5 stars for this, of course!

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