In Splintered Alyssa finds out that she’s a descendant of Alice Liddell, from Lewis Carroll’s story of Wonderland. Alyssa herself visits Wonderland together with her best friend, and love interest, Jeb, and encounters not only odd creatures and the vicious Red Queen, but also Morpheus, a man who used to visit Alyssa’s dreams when she was a child as a child himself and whom she thought only was a figment of her own imagination. But Morpheus is real and so is the fact that Alyssa is the heir to the throne of the Red Court in Wonderland.
In the sequel, Unhinged, Alyssa battles her netherling-side, keeping her tied to Wonderland, and her human side. Morpheus tries to get her to come back to Wonderland and for them to have a relationship in the magical realm, but Alyssa is in love with Jeb and dating him. She’s pulled between two lives, two men and two fates and it all come crashing down on prom night when a vicious battle erupts between Alyssa and the Red Queen which ends with Alyssa’s mother being dragged into Wonderland before the portal is sealed and Jeb and Morpheus being band to the rejectland of AnyElsewhere while Alyssa herself is sent to a psychiatric clinic in the belief that she has gone mad.
We’re now at the beginning of Ensnared and Alyssa has left the clinic with her father and is journeying to England to try to get into AnyElsewhere to save Jeb and Morpheus before continuing to Wonderland. But the path there is dangerous, not least when Alyssa enters AnyElsewhere. Everything she thought she knew has been turned up-side-down and she fights a battle on three fronts. Everyone is screaming for a part of her and Alyssa feels herself break down. But she knows that she’s the only one who can save Wonderland and she knows that whatever is trying to pull her down, she has to be stronger. But can she really handle it all?
I thought this would be an interesting read and almost looked forward to diving back into Alyssa’s mad world. I was hugely disappointed. When I believed this would be an adventure of Alyssa rescuing Jeb and Morpheus, fighting for Wonderland and finally coming head to head with the Red Queen, Howard had other plans and let the bigger portion of the book span out if AnyElsewhere. Not only that, but the fight I was looking for, the final battle between Alyssa and the cruel queen, turned out to be more of a battle for Alyssa’s heart between Jeb and Morpheus. Throughout the bigger portion of the book the two of them was playing tug-of-war with her and Alyssa, no longer dating Jeb after having hurt him on prom night by kissing Morpheus, could alter between making out with the both of them as she pleased. The entire book was basically just Alyssa going from kissing Jeb to making out with Morpheus to going back to kissing Jeb. It might have been fun if the romance wasn’t so bleak and boring.
While Alyssa was moving between guys she was also planning the Red Queen’s downfall but that too fell flat. When the big face-off finally came I was so tired of the story and only grew more tired after the battle turned out to be only a few pages of wills pushing against each other before it all ended rather abruptly. It was a long build-up to that moment and then it was past before I could really realize what had just happened.
I don’t really know what happened, either I’ve grown and changed since I read Unhinged or Howard’s writing has changed drastically, because I felt no connection to neither the characters nor the story. I didn’t care what happened to them and when I had about a hundred and fifty pages left I started to skim the pages, not caring to read every word, knowing that if I didn’t read like this I wouldn’t even finish the novel at all.
Alyssa was naïve in every sense in this book and she did a hundred things which made me roll my eyes. She also picked up a very annoying habit of repeating herself and tell the reader details that I just didn’t need to hear. In my opinion the book could’ve been cut down at least a hundred pages. It spent too much time in AnyElsewhere without being remotely interesting and I just didn’t need to hear Alyssa remind me again of that thing she’d mentioned twenty pages before. It was annoying and I got really irritated while reading. So much, in fact, that I considered not finishing at all.
The guys, Jeb and Morpheus, got on my nerves too. While Jeb has always been the nice, noble guy and Morpheus the dark, alluring one, they changed in this book and not for the better. For some time Jeb is battling himself and moving away from Alyssa. Morpheus grows boring and I found nothing he said to be either fun or flirty, just dull. Eventually the guys start to battle each other for Alyssa’s heart again it she became more of a thing than a person. She was no longer herself but someone that was supposed to belong to one of the guys and that bothered me greatly. It was as if she wasn't strong enough on her own but needed a guy by her side to be a person. Then, and this is a spoiler so look away if you don’t want that, then Alyssa compromised by deciding to live out her mortal life with Jeb and when he was dead go to Wonderland, marry Morpheus and live in immortality with him by her side. This is something Jeb knew but cared extremely little about. If anything he seemed untroubled by the fact that as soon as he was dead Alyssa would marry another man. This was not believable for me since Jeb didn’t really voice any displeasure at this and I personally think that if this happened in real life, most men would at least show some anger knowing that the one he loves will be in the arms of another man forever as soon as he’s dead. That the life he has with her might just be a speck in the ocean, easily forgotten, next to the eternity she will spend with someone else. Jeb was understanding to the point of You Took It Too Far Howard, I Don’t Believe This.
The ending, in my opinion, was too rushed, but it could’ve been a combination of me feeling like the time in AnyElsewhere lasted for the bigger portion of the book and skimming the last seventy pages. All that really happens is that Alyssa is repeating herself and not thinking anything through before she does something. That naïve, reckless streak combined with her telling the reader over and over that she was queen of Wonderland and that she had so much on her shoulders, so much to fix and that she was the only one who could fix it, made me roll my eyes again. I think Howard both tried to make me like her and to feel sympathy for her, but both fell flat and I was left with nothing but annoyance.
Another thing I found weird and irritating was that when Alyssa went into AnyElsewhere she brought her father with her. He was there the entire time, getting in the way and acting like the responsible parent while Alyssa was acting out or trying to get things right. I didn’t think he had anything to do on her quest, though he was there to save Alyssa’s mother, trapped in Wonderland. That too, was something that fell flat. I believe Howard wanted me, the reader, to be invested in the beautiful love story between Alyssa’s mother and father, but I was again just annoyed and found it to be an unnecessary distraction for the story as a whole.
All in all, this book was way too much. Like a sandwich with three layers of butter. I gagged and gagged some more. Too many unnecessary details, too much timewasting, too much repeating the same things I already knew, too many annoying characters that was either too weak, too naïve or too accepting. None had real depth, none was easy to connect to, none was truly believable. It was all just a jumble of things and places and creatures and stuff that had to happen and plans that fell apart only for things to fix itself in another way. It was too much. I did not like it at all and am glad the series is now over. The only thing I am sad over is that I already have the companion novel, Untamed, and still will read it so I at least doesn't feel that 've wasted my money. But before you waste yours, or your time, I advise you to stay away from this book.