I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I just finished the last book I needed to write it (I know, over a year later, sue me. D:). So I’m here to follow up with some cliffhangers I left after my overview of my summer reads from last year.
Unfortunately, due to Covid I was not able to volunteer this year, so I’ve been working. Instead of sitting all day in the ER, I alternate between sitting in the sun and in the guard shack. XD I really miss the hospital, but I also really like getting payed. I don’t get a chance to read as much as I’d like to, so I think my 2020 reading list will be smaller, but hopefully any follow-ups will come way sooner than over a year after they were read. XD
I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but consider this your warning in case I do overshare in some spots.
On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
So, yeah.. I just finished this book, like, two days ago as of writing this. As much as I enjoyed the beginning, the rest of the… beginning seemed to drag a little. For most of the book I kind of had to fight to read it. There were too many questions and too few answers and too little action to get those answers. It almost felt like Peterson was still trying to get his feet under him when writing this story. I think he did around the middle and the book eventually picked up and caught my attention.
The book follows the three Igby siblings, Janner the oldest at 12, Tink, his 10-year-old bother, and Leeli, the youngest at… 8? She’s either eight or nine and I’m honestly not sure which. Then there’s their widowed mother, Nia who refuses to speak about their father, and their grandfather Podo, the ex-pirate. We see more or less their day-to-day life in their little town of Glipwood as it’d occupied by the Fangs of Dang, lizard-like humanoids that come from across the Dark Sea in search of murder, wealth, and maggotloaf. Like I said, day-to-day life can be a drag, but their little adventures would be great to read aloud. This is a book I think would be great to read aloud to a kiddo as a bedtime story.
I definitely think the more and more inclusion of a character named Peet the Sock Man (yes, that’s a very good indicator for how ridiculous this book can be at times) and the mention of these mysterious things called ‘The Jewels of Anniera’ that the Fangs are after, really helped to pick up the story. It added that mystery the story needed. Instead of asking ‘What on earth is a Thwap and why do I care?” now I’m asking “What are the jewels of Anniera?” “What *is* Anniera in the first place? Is it real? Legend?” That’s the kind of questions that make a story worth reading.
I also do love the characters themselves. They’re so interesting and full. The story had a problem with head-hopping for a while, and it still wasn’t quite solved by the end, but I understand a little more with the third person omniscient POV. It’s not my favorite perspective, but it works if done well, and it is once you get into it. All the characters make me laugh and want to root for them. I especially like Leeli. She’s so kind but feisty and I cannot wait to see how she grows over the course of the series. She’s really got such a big heart for strength and love and… the big reveal at the end of the book fits her so well. *pats them* They’re all like my little siblings, and I can’t wait to see where their adventures in the rest of the series takes them.
The Splintered Series by A. J. Howard
If you remember my review of the first two books of this series, Splintered and Unhinged, it was mostly negative. I was overall disappointed by the series when we left off. It was too raunchy with too little payoff. It had it’s good, and even incredible, moments, and the storytelling was fantastic. Howard is a great writer and no one can dispute that. She is a wizard with endings, which no matter how much you disliked the book, you need to find out what happens in the next one. Sometimes this is a cheap plot device to keep you reading the series. And sure, that’s what this is,
But by golly does it pay off in Ensnared.
Ensnared, the final book in the series, absolutely blew me away. It is everything the second book should have been and more.
This book takes place in Anyelsewhere, aka, the looking glass world. It’s a prison for all the creatures of Wonderland who misused their power and got banished there or got eaten by a special kind of wood. It’s kind of weird, but that’s the tale of Wonderland, right? It starts off with us finally finding out Alyssa’s father’s backstory, and it’s really awesome overall. It solved a lot of mysteries regarding her heritage overall. Alyssa and her dad end up flying to England on the back of butterflies (yes, butterflies!) to get into Anyelsewhere so they can save Jeb and Morpheus (her two friends and love interests, in reminder). When she gets there, it’s an even more wild place than Wonderland was, and in my personal opinion, it’s exactly what Wonderland should have been. Everything is untamed and wild. The magic that does survive doesn’t make sense all the time or follow any real rules. Anyelsewhere is the place I remember when I look back on the series, it’s the place I want to revisit. It’s mad, it’s fascinating, and it’s terrifying all at the same time, making it wonderful. The worldbuilding for this place was completely insane, and I adored it.
At this point, Jeb has somehow gotten hold of magic (to tell you how is very spoilers) and now his art comes alive which I am a total sucker for that. It really adds so much to the story and it just… Ah. Jeb in this book is completely fantastic, and to be honest, so is Morpheus. Though I had more problems with him on the inappropriate side overall (that’s just his character), it somehow worked *better* in this book than in the previous two. Queen Red (the overarching bad guy) is also here with them, but as only a soul(? ghost? consciousness? IDK man, wonderland), she needs something to inhabit before she can take Alyssa (which is her end goal) to continue her reign. So guess who else is in Anyelsewhere with them? The infamous Red Queen: Queen Hart, the Queen of Hearts herself.
Now, I think you all know how I feel about anything heart related, despite her… interesting history, she’s no exception. Especially this version of her. She fits in wildly well with the rest of the surroundings. She freaks me out completely. She is a well-written character, not just as a villain. And, true to her name, it’s not heads she collects, it’s hearts themselves. She adorns herself with them as beads and necklaces. It’s completely wild. She belongs in Anyelsewhere as their monarch, and it’s so well done.
Even once everyone escapes (as they must, of course ;D) from the prison there’s still danger hanging over them due to Alyssa’s heart literally splitting itself in two (yes, you read that right, I spent hours trying to figure that one out) and this other evil lady wanting Jeb and his creative mind for herself, the story isn’t over. The wild ride continues to the end.
I didn’t mind the actual end of the story? It was neither satisfying nor dissatisfying. I think it was the best way to end it, however. There is a short story collection as well as a story that follows a few years after the trilogy ends about Alyssa’s daughter, so it’s not the end of Howard’s version of Wonderland.
So, I’ve changed my mind about this series. Sure, I have my qualms with it, and I probably have a few more than I’d like to have with a book series I’d say I ‘liked’. But Ensnared was almost exactly what I was looking for in this story, in this world. It was everything I expected, wanted, and somehow it was even more. There were twists I didn’t expect, characters I found myself finally liking (Sorry, Morpheus, it took me three books to like you entirely), and pieces of storytelling I wasn’t expecting or didn’t think I’d see.
TL;DR: I said it with Fire last summer and I’ll repeat, this series is definitely not for younger readers. In fact, I’d say this series isn’t for most readers at all. There would have to be a very specific kind of person I’d recommend this to, and I’d hesitate to recommend it to anyone under the age of 16. It deals with mature topics in some spots, and there are things I skimmed, but the thing that really made this series worthwhile was all the payoff we got in Ensnared. I didn’t have very high hopes for it, and it blew them through the roof. Sure, I wouldn’t exactly say the things I like or find fascinating or curious are normal, some of the scenes with Queen Hart or Jeb’s creations could be almost bordering on gory, but as a lover of hearts, and maybe just a little bit of the macabre, that wasn’t something I had a problem with, but it’s another indicator of the true outlier of the audience. I wish there had been a little more payoff in Unhinged (it follows the Trilogy pattern to a T) but Ensnared was the crown of the series.
I cannot wait to read more of Howard’s writing, no matter the issues I had with the series, the woman is a fantastic author overall and I cannot wait to see what other worlds I will uncover between her pages.
“Have you stopped talking yet? Good.”
Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed this post, even if it did get longer than intended. I did get a little carried away, but I could honestly fangirl for hours. As I’m writing this, this post needs to go up in 6 hours. Yikes. Perhaps I should get a move on.
I hope you had a fantastic week and may you have a spectacular Friday.