After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world–a parallel dimension filled with mutated and violent netherling outcasts.
In the final installment of the wildly popular Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But if they succeed and come out alive, can everyone truly have their happily ever after?
Book Review: 1/2
Darkness has settled over my heart. Rather sadness, as I now morn the conclusion of this is strange and imaginative series.
In the final instalment of the Splintered trilogy, a devilishly and uniquely darker take on Carroll’s Wonderland, Alyssa must embrace her two sides that both enrich and tare her heart apart in order to save her two worlds from destruction.
As always Howard introduces us to the more sinister side of Carroll’s original world. You become haunted by painted landscapes and characters that revel in the death of themselves, that thrive for madness. Ensnared was unbelievable! Howard’s imagination continuously surprises me, leaving me re-reading passages to try and absorb all aspects of the mysterious and gruesome imagery.
In the beginning of the novel Alyssa ventures to the memory train in order for her father to regain his forgotten past. In Unhinged it was such an awe struck revelation that children’s dreams fuelled Wonderland and kept the spirits at bay. Alyssa’s father was one of the children taken from the human world to act as a dream child in order to prevent the spirits from escaping and reaping havoc across Wonderland. The fact that her father had this connection to Wonderland was only the beginning, because he was originally destined to become a white knight that was bred to guard the gates that separated the human world from AnyElsewhere (the place where no one wants to go, where the outcasts of Wonderland are stuck for eternity, and where Jeb, Morpheus & Red were sucked into at the end of the previous novel).
Of course this is tied very closely into the vision that Alyssa and Morpheus will one day bare a child that will bring dreams back to Wonderland so Sister Two will no longer have to steal human children. But I am jumping ahead, so let me backtrack.
Alyssa and her Dad reacquaint themselves with family members, from her fathers side that are in fact decedents of Carroll. Alyssa is armed with the memories that Red had forgotten, aiming for them to be ammunition to weaken her enough so that she can finally get rid of her. It is revealed that it was Red’s plan all along to create offspring that will bring dreams back to Wonderland, which is why she posed as Alice all those years ago. Her motivations however became darkened as she lost the memories for why she was driven to have half-ling offspring in Wonderland. And so the story unfolds.
I truly feel as though all plot lines found an ending. As a reader you aren’t left feeling as though something was never explained or just quickly rushed over in an attempt to check something off the overextending plot-point list. In true Howard fashion the web of intrigue and wonderment she cast over this world was enriched and completed without a fault.
We gain a snippet into Red’s past, understanding how powerful memories really are in influencing who we become. When Alyssa is faced with the same choice, she chooses differently. Finally understanding that she is a part of both worlds and that it is necessary for her to maintain her footing in each in order for her to become the Queen that Wonderland truly needs.
What I must discuss now however, before my head explodes, is the ending. Which of course is tied into the conclusions written for the two loves in Alyssa’s life. If I am being perfectly honest, I didn’t love it. As I turned the final page of Unhinged I was left with an unsettling feeling that Alyssa was going to have an incredibly hard choice to make between the two men that had taken over her heart.
After Splintered I was a Jeb fan through and through, but I most definitely warmed to Morpheus in Unhinged. Although still incredibly arrogant and manipulative (which doesn’t really change) you see his motivations are to empower Alyssa, challenge her in a way that she needs in order for her to embrace her destiny and save Wonderland. Of course he is incredibly humorous, and you just can’t help but smile at his sometimes (almost always) selfish endeavours in an attempt to win her over. It’s a part of his charm, no matter how oddly he is dressed. The issue at the end of the second novel however, and that carried into the third, was that Morpheus was not able to understand Alyssa’s human side. The side that made her question the progress of her endeavours, the side that needed the logical, consistency and even at times simplicity of the human realm.
Falling in love with Alyssa changed Morpheus so that he was able to understand this part of her. How fragile and beautiful love is. How he could have something more from his eternal life, something meaningful and everlasting.
“For although you’ve made me feel things I am not equipped for…I cannot stop feeling them.”
His chin quavers. “You opened Pandora’s box within me. Set loose the imaginings and emotions of a mortal man. And there is no closing it ever again.”
A.G Howard | Ensnared
This of course was aided by the vision that showed their child. So in Ensnared, I was now rooting for Alyssa and Morpheus! At times I thought she was onboard with my feelings for these two to be together immediately at the conclusion of the novel, but alas no.
I must admit that I do appreciate Howard’s ability to write a conclusion to the trinity love affair that makes certain sense on some level. This level is filled with logic, and it is understandable because in the ultimate question of who Alyssa would choose, there really was no definitive line of the ‘better man’. In the end Jeb too was able to see what the magic in Alyssa does to her, how she needs the madness that ensues because of it, when he too gains powers in AnyElsewhere. Which in turn allows him to accept and understand her completely.
Yes, I loved the fact that Jeb finally realised how wonderful he is. He embraced the reality of himself, the self that Alyssa always saw in him.
How was she then going to choose between them, when they each accepted her and loved her for who she was? When they both empowered her to be herself? When they both sacrificed so much for her to live? I thought it might come down to the future they would provide for her. After all, if Alyssa was eventually going to spend eternity with Morpheus wouldn’t that dampen her and Jeb’s relationship during the years they spent their human lives together? Therefore, choose Morpheus now. Obvious choice really. (The choice I would have made).
I honestly thought though that she surely can’t have both worlds in the end. That in a sense it would be a cop-out.
As her heart literally begins to tare itself in half, her two loves bond together to suture it back together. For it to heal completely she must spend her days in the human realm and nights in Wonderland where Morpheus will teach her all the things she needs to know to eventually take the throne when she is ready. (aka when everyone she loves dies in the mortal realm). Each man ends up respecting the other during this, which results them being okay with sharing the one they love.
BUT!! (Promise this is my last but).
How could they be happy with this compromise? I honestly felt that her love for Jeb had wained as she got to know Morpheus, that she was holding onto something that would satisfy someone else’s life expectations and not her own. This was really my own wishes for how I wanted the novel to pan out clouding the reality of the situation, because in the end Howard’s logic breaks through.
Alyssa truly loved both of them, and in the end she didn’t have to choose. Lucky duck.
I still feel as though Jeb would have resented her in the end. He lost his muse so could no longer paint, and in addition to this every night his love/eventual wife would spend her dreams with another man who eventually she would spend eternity with. ETERNITY! Last time I checked, that’s a really long time. Like FOREVER!
This doesn’t sit right with me, but at the same time I couldn’t envision a future where Jeb wouldn’t end up getting the raw end of the stick. So I guess in a sense I am tentatively happy that everyone got their happy ending. Even if it was odd.
Which I guess is Wonderland for you.
What did you think of the final instalment in this series?