Monday, September 10, 2018

ARC Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Title: A Blade So Black
Author: L.L. McKinney
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: Imprint
Pages: 384
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally. 

A Blade So Black caught my eye because it was an Alice in Wonderland retelling and I was so excited to dive in! Of course, some of my favorite books of all time are Wonderland retellings, so it also had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations.

This retelling is different than many others in that it's really more urban fantasy than fantasy. Honestly, I feel it would have worked better as an original urban fantasy book than a Wonderland retelling. While I liked the idea of a more badass Alice taking on monsters in Wonderland, I didn't love the way A Blade So Black got there.

Wonderland itself is strange, and not in the great way that it's meant to be. When I read a Wonderland book I want to BE there. I want to see the weird, dreamlike landscapes in my head. A Blade So Black doesn't describe the world in a way that paints an easy picture of Wonderland, and this is a world that needs to be vivid, especially when there are so many portrayals already.

One of my biggest issues with this book, though, is the way the beginning is written. In the first eight pages, Alice sees her first Wonderland creature, then there's a six month time jump during which she has been training with Hatta. We don't see any of this training - we're just told that she's "ready" for Wonderland. There also isn't a really good description of what she's ready for, just vague discussion about weapons and Nightmares. By page thirty Alice has had her first (very rushed) trip to Wonderland followed by another one year time jump. This entire thirty page chunk could have been the first half of the book, but for whatever reason the author decided to jump over all of the training and just get to the part where Alice has to save Hatta. It made the entire intro to the story feel extremely rushed and clunky.

I've seen A Blade So Black compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but a huge chunk of Buffy is seeing her grow into a badass. With such a huge chunk of the character growth fast forwarded, it's hard to feel invested. Sadly, I just couldn't get into this book.