Saturday, December 12, 2015

untamed Untamed (Splintered Companion) by A.G. Howard | Rating: ★★★★★

As a note, a finished copy of this novel was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Nearly a year since readers said their farewells to A.G. Howard’s vivid, beautiful and grotesque take on Wonderland and all the delightful (and yes, at times frightening) characters found in between two realms, Splintered is back. Or at least, to some capacity it’s back–regardless, we as fans and readers are given the chance at one last trip down the rabbit hole through our newest addition to the family: Untamed.

Untamed, if you were wondering, serves as a beautiful tie-in to our already loved world and the characters we grew to admire in the span of a few years. It fills in some blanks on some plots and will leave readers dazed.

That’s right, our favorite character’s back and showcased in three different novellas as a companion to the main series. I have to admit this was my number one most anticipated read for 2015 and I feel so incredibly honored to have the chance to review it for you.

(In truth, readers, my review may not be up to standard. I’m going to–of course–leave my review spoiler free but I should also warn you that I may stray a bit in a slightly incoherent cold manner. So bare with me!)


I want you to believe me, guys, when I say that we are super lucky to be brought back into the mix of things. Companion novels aren’t all that uncommon when a series ends, but very few will live on in your heart and even less will maintain the magic of the original work. We're truly lucky to have an author like A.G. Howard because Untamed is not one of those to be ignored–it is wonderfully crafted and you will shed more than a few tears.

All three of our short stories tie perfectly with our trilogy and expand our emotions and knowledge, taking the same delightful tone we already loved.

Which leads me into comments on Howard’s descriptive writing. First thing I have to say is how mind blowing it is to see her writing grow and these words/worlds take on a life of their own. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: I would probably read a phone book if it was penned by dear ‘ole A.G. and that’s that.

You see… let’s first tackle emotions, shall we?

A.G. Howard makes you feel a lot of things in her writing and Untamed is no exception to that. This will be no shock to her longtime fans. In many moments throughout these tales, in particular Alyssa’s novella, I felt as though we should have been given a box of tissues. That’s really what I’ll leave it at.

Prepare yourself for a slew of feelings and to also, in some ways, feel like you’re back home again. Ultimately that’s what the best feeling was about Untamed… falling back into these pages and seeing these characters once more: it felt like coming home after a long day. I have missed our Wonderland and it felt so, so nice to have something new.

Fans are going to eat this up and then face yet another book hangover when they flip that final page. You mean it’s over? Really and truly over? We made it through last year, guys, and we can do this again! I promise. We’ve got this, we’ve got this, we’ve got this…

*sniffle*

Excuse me. I’m only slightly emotional. And to all my darling readers who will be picking up their copy, beware! You will be too after Alyssa’s final on-page moments before she sets off to live her own eternity.

Let’s recap on some of the stories, shall we?

Starting with the obvious…

For the first time in print, we are shown a tale that will be very familiar to readers already. Previously released as a novella online, The Moth in the Mirror is a reminder of just how far our beloved Moth has come in just three stories. And how much further he has to go.

Although this story–as he visits Jeb’s memories–will not be new to a great deal of us, it is a right treat to have it in physical form now. I’m so happy to have a copy of it in the flesh and to see it included with our other tales because it is such an important story to tell.

The Moth in the Mirror is the only of the three novellas I will be getting down [fully] into in my review because it has been available for so long already. If you have yet to read this little gem, please skim past my vague-spoilers so you don’t, you know, get spoiled.

See, what I love most about this story is the comparison deepens between Jeb and Morpheus. We already know that they are two very, very different characters–worlds apart with only a few links of similarities. Alyssa, and their love for her, being the biggest.

But they have ties between the two that feel right: both are determined and passionate, tricky and intelligent when they want to be. They’re different enough to be evenly matched up with one half of who Alyssa is.

Comparing the two can be tedious because ultimately fans view one as “the good guy” the other as “the bad guy” and will forever have opinions on who is superior (which isn’t a bad thing!) but in The Moth, we see memories expand these gaps between similarities and it builds onto something much more. It gives them more of a common ground. An even playing field. I loved it.

I like that Morpheus has his curiosity and game plan at hand. He always does and that’s the way he is built.

When he goes into these memories, expecting to walk a mile in his enemies shoes, he gets so much more than he bargained for. I like that it isn’t an overwhelming knowledge that deflates him and waters him into something he is not, but it does catch him off guard enough to spark a bit of, let’s say, compassion.

In these memories of Jeb–in seeing his mind and heart and the things that connect to who he is–Morpheus gets a bit of an understanding before forming what we know see as respect between the two. Morpheus–in receiving that understanding after viewing the world as Jeb sees it–grows just a bit more.

It’s remarkable how much he grows throughout our trips through pages but it’s perhaps the series’ best emotional fleet.

Next is Alison Gardner’s story, which is the first story in this collection: The Boy in the Web.

In these pages–shorter than I’d liked but not short enough for a real complaint–we see the heart of Alyssa’s mother and look back on the struggles she had in her own youth, including the days leading up to her discovery of Wonderland (and Morpheus and his mad appearance) all the way to her decision to rescue the boy in the web, aka Alyssa’s father Thomas.

I can’t stress enough over the fact that so much love and emotion is pressed into one tiny story. Without spoiling, I have to say that Alison Gardner has an undeniable heart to her and… wow, I just loved hearing her thoughts and her side to the stories.

Seeing her past and the way in tangled with Alyssa’s future is like watching a bunch of pieces of a puzzle fall into place. I love that gaps are filled because of it. And seeing Alison and Thomas interact–in her eyes, not their daughters–is just… well, tender. Beautiful. Bittersweet. I could go on but the point is, I loved seeing these stories and weaving them together.

Alyssa has a lot in common with both parents and I think as the series progressed we saw a lot of herself in her mother and her mother in her. You’re going to love seeing Alison’s reactions, as a kid, to Morpheus and seeing how her story truly began. It felt like such an honor to be reading it and I always wanted there to be a prequel series or something but this is just as solid.

I’ve said our last story, the best, for last. Alyssa Gardner comes back for one hoorah, so to speak, and we see pieces of her life begin to complete. We see in small details how things played out, where she lived and who everyone became. All those moments we miss after the final book in the trilogy, all those moments that happened off page and before our series start, are featured in Six Impossible Things and it is the most important and heartbreaking part of this collection. More than just heartbreaking it's also heartwarming and reminds of all of lives quirks.

Weddings, births, death, dreams and more. It’s life at its most vulnerable and stunning. It is the beginning to something more while the end of something else. Pair this up with A.G.’s descriptive writing and heartfelt characters and you’ve got the ultimate novella.

I can’t say that all fans will agree with me–that this is the best of the stories, but for me it is.

Think of it as a look back for our beloved queen and her life that is split in two. Two sides to her heart, two sides of what makes Alyssa real. Because of these two sides, we see a glimmer of her humanity and her netherling–both sides, both lives, tied together in one series of memories.

What life was like for her after Wonderland and how she lived her days with Jeb and the humans she loved. What life grew to be after years of heartache and loss that comes with age. It was… beautiful. Heartbreaking. Tears will flow, smiles will spread. There will not be a dry eye during some moments and others it will be impossible not to smirk or swoon.

Six Impossible Things is our girl at her finest moments and then some. It is the perfect end note to a perfect series.

Overall, Untamed is the best companion novel in the young adult genre this year–maybe of all time. It had some stiff competition but it's impossible to compete with this guy, impossible to compete with Wonderland. I don't even have to say why. I just know that this series is vastly underrated and this collection blew me away.

It brings us a collection of stories that don’t just awkwardly blend in with what we already know, instead expanding our love for Wonderland and all the chaotic madness within. It truly is a new chapter and a new look. I loved every moment of it and I am absolutely gutted to admit that it’s really, really over.

(At least we have a new A.G. Howard book coming soon-ish!)

Goodbye, Splintered. You will be greatly missed. Goodbye doesn't mean forever, though, and at least we'll always have Wonderland to visit on our shelves. Stay tuned next month for my countdown of the best moments of the entire series (the trilogy and companion) after I give you kids a chance to pick up your copy of this companion on December 15th, 2015.

Have you guys pre-ordered it? Is it at the top of your Christmas list? I hope you are able to get it! Just a few more days until its release...

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