Science fiction and fantasy                                            



A Blade So Black

by L. L. McKinney

A Blade So Black updates Alice In Wonderland to modern Atlanta, where Alice is drawn into a crazy world of journeys to Wonderland in order to defend the mortal world. After the death of her father she is almost attacked in an alley by a monster, when Addison Hatta comes to her rescue. He seems quite otherworldly, and so it proves in this portal fantasy.

Rather than dwell on this beginning, the story skips ahead several months at a time as Alice learns to use her fighting skills and sense of self-believe, known as her "Muchness" to destroy Nightmares. These are manifestations of humanity's fears, so they can be held at bay but they're never truly defeated, and they can be lethal. Addison is Alice's mentor and trainer in an eternal battle that crosses through a gateway into Wonderland, a world of dreams, fears, and sometimes brilliantly coloured beauty and strangeness.

It's a vast contrast to Alice's life in Atlanta, where she has to contend with school, friends, and keeping contact with her mother who worries about her in a way that would seem clingy if it weren't for the mitigating circumstances. The recent death of a young local woman weighs heavily on the community and on Alice's mother, making her keen to know her daughter's whereabouts at all times. It's not the easiest environment in which to keep her calling as a monster slayer a secret.

Alice and Addison share quick banter and jokes, sounding very much like ordinary human teenagers at times. Their cover is the Looking Glass Pub run by Maddi, a potion maker who rarely makes sense. Maddi helps Addison to guard the gateway between worlds. And there are also Alice's human friends Courtney and Chester. Courtney keeps Alice's secrets, but Chester isn't privy to what's going on, even though he seems to be quite interested in her.

A Blade So Black isn't as eccentric or high concept as Alice In Wonderland, at least to begin with. It's more focused on whacking monsters and on teenage life. There are themes of dealing with grief and trying not to let down family and friends. The Alice motifs suggest a certain literary depth, but this story is still more action-oriented than anything else, especially when a chap calling himself the Black Knight and claiming to have a Vorpal Blade turns up and unleashes yet more trouble.

In the heat of battle Alice comes across initially as alert and perhaps even a bit nervous. She doesn't always brim with self-belief, even though that's one thing that gives her more power in Wonderland. However, she's on her way, which makes her a more relatable main character than if she were a perfect warrior at all times.

The story has a few twists, and the Wonderland characters don't necessarily look, sound, or act anything like their Lewis Carroll counterparts. It's quite an enjoyable and moving story with a fast pace and some non-explicit romance. However, it's not a stand-alone book, and as the first part in a series, readers will need to continue reading to find out what happens next. On the basis of the first book, I wanted to read on.

2nd February 2020

Book Details

Year: 2018

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
 
  Cheerful
  Female Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: library

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