Initial reaction: Oh man, this was a book I was very much looking forward to reading, and the imagery and dark qualities of the story really drew me in for a time, but unfortunately it became very difficult for me to read after a time because of familiar cliche elements and stuff that just didn't mesh right. I'll have a comprehensive review on my thoughts about this after I give myself time to meditate over it, but this adaptation of Alice left me on the fence, and I'm not sure if I'm going to rate this between 2 - 3 stars.
I'll first say that it's been my full intention to read the rest of this series to its completion, I just haven't had the time, and it's been a while since I've read the first book "Splintered." I'm hoping to change that in 2016 to see where this series goes ultimately.
But ye Gods, the moment I first saw this book, I fell in love with the cover. Also, having the promise of recounting a twisted version of Wonderland? Completely sold me. I've read my fair share of YA interpretations of Alice in Wonderland ("The Looking Glass Wars", "Queen of Hearts", etc.") and am mostly fascinated by the ways people choose to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, this interpretation has its share of strong moments as well as cringeworthy ones. The strong moments include the imagery of the world, puzzles, and creatures within Wonderland, the history of Alice Liddell and the impact is has on the protagonist's family (including the mom, Allison, who was locked up in a mental institution and almost tried to kill her own daughter at one point). I mean, it would seem that this book could've taken a really dark turn and could've had some meaningful twists in the spectrum of the story.
Unfortunately - what ruined this book for me was the portrayal of the romance(s). Jeb is a jerk - I'm sorry, that's probably the book's Achilles Heel right there. I honestly didn't see why Alyssa pined over him and his controlling attitude made Patch from "Hush, Hush" look like a saint in comparison in places. Ugh. Morpheus is interesting enough to keep me reading through the series, but I remember having problems with his character as well. (Forgive me, it's been years since I've read "Splintered", though I imagine I'll do a thorough re-read before tacking the rest of the series.)
I'm intrigued enough by Howard's imaging of the world and conflict in this book to continue with the series, but didn't like the way romance was portrayed and the convoluted turns of the plot that were towards the end. Granted, I'm hoping these issues are less in the forthcoming series, but we'll see.
Overall score: 2/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Amulet Books/ABRAMS.