"It's time to put the crown back on- or else"
Reviewed by Samantha Randolph
Posted April 3, 2014
Fantasy | Young Adult
For a year, Alyssa Gardner has tried living a normal human
life with her boyfriend, Jeb, even though her dreams are
still full of Wonderland and the seductive Morpheus. When
Morpheus makes an appearance in the flesh, Alyssa is faced
with the decision to return to Wonderland and fight the Red
Queen or stay with Jeb and her family, leaving Wonderland
crumbling without her help. Alyssa continues on her
potentially perilous quest of finding herself and her home
in this sequel to A.G. Howard's Splintered.
After reading Splintered I really thought that the
reimagining of Wonderland could not get any better, but
UNHINGED takes the amazing world building already set up in
Splintered and shoots fireworks at it, making it even better
than the first. I love the incredible world of creatures,
magic, darkness, and beauty that A.G. Howard has made in
this series. The writing that builds this world is smooth,
and the pacing leaves you absolutely gasping for air,
especially by the end.
While I normally prefer just one main love interest, the
love triangle between Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus is so full
of angst, lies, betrayal, insanely swoony kisses, and
adoring dialogue that I can'tt help but love it. My favorite
character is Morpheus, Wonderland's equivalent of the snarky
and sensual, but eternally devoted Chuck Bass from Gossip
Girl. The dynamic between him and Alyssa is absolutely
delicious and the ways they complement each other can only
be described as magical. Here is a (potential) couple that
puts equality between each other as a priority, and there is
nothing I love more than that in romance. I am dying for the
third book to find out what happens next in all of their
For anyone who enjoys reimaginings or fantasy, this is one
of the best series I could possibly recommend. Whether you
are a fan of the original Alice in Wonderland or not, this
is a tale that will nearly overwhelm you with beauty and
magic and take you on a journey you won't forget.
Learn more about Unhinged
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was
crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch.
She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped
the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now
all she has to do is graduate high school.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released
from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And
it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t
show up for school one day to tempt her with another
dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where
she (partly) belongs.
Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the
sake of a man she knows has manipulated her before? Will her
mother and Jeb trust her to do what’s right? Readers will
swoon over the satisfying return to Howard’s bold, sensual
reimagining of Carroll’s classic.
ExcerptThe string of lights around my ankles and wrists drags me
against the current, farther into the tunnel
where the water is black. It’s like being submerged in cold
ink. I fight to get my head above water but
can’t. The chill leaves me numb, desperate to breathe.
Jeb finds me. Gripping underneath my arms, he draws me out
enough that I get one swallow
of air, but another surge of water tumbles him toward the
pipe’s opening and the vinyl cords jerk me
the opposite direction. I can tell by his distant shouts
that he can’t follow. I’m glad he’s caught in the
current. He’ll be safer once the rush of water deposits him
Things I learned in Wonderland a year ago . . . powers I
practice alone in my room so Mom
won’t catch me and freak out . . . comeback, as forceful as
the cords dragging me underneath
I relax my muscles and concentrate on the strands of lights,
envisioning them alive. In my
mind, the electricity that pulses through their wires
becomes plasma and nutrients. They respond
like living creatures. Their lights brighten enough for me
to see under water as the wires animate.
Problem is, I haven’t been consistent with my magical
exercises, so even though I’m giving the
strand life, I have no control. It’s as if the lights have
minds of their own.
Or maybe they’re under someone else’s influence.
Convulsing as I fight the need to inhale, I force my eyes to
stay open under the water. The
cold makes them ache. I’m shuttled into the deep end of the
tunnel, as if riding an aquatic chariot
harnessed to electric eels. The cords haul me toward a door—
small and ancient—embedded in
the concrete wall. It’s covered with moss, and out of place
here in the human realm, but I’ve seen it
before. I have the key to open it around my neck.
It doesn’t make any sense that it would be here, so far from
the rabbit hole in London which
is the only entrance into Wonderland from this world.
I jerk against my binds. I’m not sleeping, so this can’t be
a dream. I don’t want to go inside
that door while I’m awake. I’m still trying to get over the
My lungs draw tight inside me, ravenous, until I have no
choice. Going inside is my only way
out, my only way to breathe and live. Straining against the
bindings on my wrist, I bend my elbows to
reach for my chest. With both hands, I snag the key on my
necklace, shoving Jeb’s heart locket out
of the way. The current pounds my head into the concrete
wall. Pain shoots from my temple to my
I sweep my bound legs like a mermaid’s tail in order to
resituate in the water. When I drift
once more toward the door, I thrust the key into the
keyhole. With a twist of my wrists, the latch gives
and water funnels out. At first I’m too big to breach the
opening, but either the doorway grows or I
shrink, because somehow I fit perfectly.
I ride the waves through the door, lifting my face to gulp
air. A hillock stops me, hard enough
to knock the air from my lungs. I’m left coughing in the
mud, my throat and lungs sore, my wrists and
ankles chafed from their struggle with the string of lights.
I flip to my back and kick my legs, trying to loosen my
binds. A shadow of large black wings
crawls across me, a shield from the storm brewing overhead.
Streaks of neon lightning slash across
the sky, casting the landscape in fluorescent hues and
releasing an acrid, charred scent. Morpheus’s
porcelain complexion—from his smooth face to his toned chest
peering out of a half-buttoned shirt—
looks as luminous as moonlight beneath the electric flashes.
He towers over me. His impressive height is the only thing
he and Jeb have in common. A
black duster jacket whips around his boots. He opens a hand,
a lacy cuff slipping out from his jacket.
“Like I’ve been telling you, luv”—his deep accent rolls
through my ears—“if you relax, your
magic will respond. Or perhaps you’d rather stay tied up. I
could place you on a platter for my next
banquet. You know my guests prefer their entrees thrashing
I cover my burning eyes and groan. Sometimes when I’m upset
or nervous, I forget that
there’s a trick to my netherling powers. Inhaling through my
nose, I think of the sun glistening on the
ocean’s lapping waves to calm my heartbeat, then breathe out
through my mouth.
Within seconds, the light strand relaxes and falls away from
I flinch as Morpheus forces me to my feet. Weary from their
battle with the water, my legs
start to give, but he offers no other assistance. So typical
of him, expecting me to stand on my own.
“I really hate you sometimes,” I say, propping myself
against a giant leafy stem for support.
The daisy surrenders to my weight without a word, triggering
a curious twinge in my gut. I can’t
imagine why it’s not pushing me off or complaining.
“Sometimes.” Morpheus drops a black velvet cowboy hat over
his blue hair. “A few weeks ago
it was a definitive always. In a matter of days, you’ll be
professing your undying lo—”
“Loathing?” I interrupt.
Smiling provocatively, he adjusts his hat to a cocky angle
and the garland of dead moths
across the brim trembles. “Either way, I’m under your skin.
Either way, I win.” He taps long, elegant
fingers on his red suede pants.
I fight the annoying impulse to return his smile, hyper-
aware of what his body language does
to my insides: how they curl and stretch warily, like a cat
basking on a sunny ledge, drawn to the
heat but guarded against slipping off.
“You’re not supposed to bring me here in the daytime.” I
wring out my soaked skirt’s hem
before moving to the tangles on my head. Gusts catch my
hair, slapping slimy strands across my
neck and face. Goosebumps cover my skin beneath my clothes.
I shiver and cross my arms. “That’s
not part of the deal.”
Morpheus wraps a wing halfway around me, blocking the wind.
His expression teeters
between admonishment and amusement. “I don’t recall agreeing
to any deal. And you should be
able to visit any time of day you please. You have a home
here, too, after all.”
“So you keep insisting.” I break our stare before he can
draw me into his mesmerizing gaze. I
focus instead on the chaos around us. This is the worst I’ve
ever seen it.
Deep purple clouds scud across the sky like fat, gauzy
spiders. They leave dark trails, as if
spinning webs in the air. The mud beneath my shoes groans
and sputters. Brown bubbles pop and
rise into the air. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear
something was breathing under there.
Even the wind has found a voice, loud and melancholy,
whistling through the flower-zombie
forest that once stood as proud as elms. The flowers used to
greet me with snarky attitudes and
snooty conversation. Now, each and every one cowers, bent at
the stems, their wilted arms hiding
petals that are studded with hundreds of shuttered eyes.
The multi-eyed netherlings have lost their fight . . . their
Morpheus slides his hands into a pair of slick red gloves.
“If you think this is tragic, you
should see what’s happening in the heart of Wonderland.”
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