By: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: December 15th, 2015
Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their memories of Wonderland.
In Six Impossible Things, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her life after Ensnared, and the role magic plays in preserving the happiness of those she loves. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and rescuing the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.
This collection expands upon Ensnared’s epilogue, and includes some deleted scenes to provide a “director’s cut” glimpse into the past and futures of our favorite Splintered characters.
I feel so bad about giving Untamed such a low rating, because the cover is BEAUTIFUL. I was also really hopeful about the stories. If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you’ll notice that, while I liked the first book in the Splintered series, I just wasn’t a fan of any of the others. I was really hoping that Untamed, a companion book of short stories, would help change my mind about the series, but it didn’t. Rather, it really soured my understanding of the rest of the series.
First warning: The title Untamed is unoriginal and shared by many seemingly icky romances. Second warning, the book is indeed, a book of short stories. They’re all connected to the Splintered universe, in different ways, but they were really all snippets, no really deep or satisfying tale. One, the Moth in the Mirror, had been released before. The other two, The Boy in the Web and Six Impossible Things, were (to the best of my knowledge) new creations. I’ve been struggling with how to review this book–as a book or more focused on individual short stories, but decided it was impossible to review as a novel.
My biggest pet peeve with the first two stories, Moth in the Mirror and Boy in the Web was that they were utterly predictable and gave no new information. Although they told aspects of the Splintered series from different viewpoints, I didn’t think they were radical enough to merit the story, and they didn’t contribute much new information to my understanding of the series. I skimmed Moth in the Mirror because it felt like nothing important, although I did take time to roll my eyes at Jeb’s comment about Alyssa’s precious virginity (more on this later). What new information they did tell me was basically that Morpheus, one of the main love interests in the series, should burn for a while in the depths of hell.
Morpheus is notable throughout the series mainly as a manipulative cad who still manages to show off a softer side to Alyssa. One excuse Alyssa gave for his behavior at one point was that Morpheus had been less manipulative until he had to deal with Alyssa’s mother Alison–whereas Alison’s perspective in Boy in the Web showed that Morpheus was even more of an unfeeling arse who would put anyone else into danger to get his way. I will say this once, Morpheus: you do NOT manipulate events to nearly get a thirteen-year-old girl RAPED, KILL the would-be rapist and land said girl in heaps of trouble with the law, and then explain to her that you’ll make her queen of wonderland to make up for it if she keeps jumping through your hoops. THIS IS NOT OK. Additionally, I found the whole near-rape to be badly handled, and not given much importance. It angered me how easily Alison brushed off the assault/murder episode. She also didn’t react to the information that Morpheus had driven the mom she venerated to madness and therefore suicide. The sappy scene between Alison and her husband afterwards did nothing to make up for how upset I was at the rest of the story.
Six Impossible Things sounded interesting at first–six moments from Alyssa’s life, both as a mortal and as a Queen. But I quickly got annoyed with the sappiness of the story. Firstly, Six Impossible Things wasn’t so much a short story as a collection of about ten snippets, held vaguely together by a common theme and put with the other stories to make Untamed. These snippets weren’t enough to give me any additional feel of a story, they were really just moments which felt almost teasing in their briefness. They also tended to all be major events–births, deaths, marriages, etc.–when what I really wanted were quiet, silly, random yet beautiful moments from Alyssa’s lives, the touching moments rather than the big ones. Plus, the sugary, excessive sentimentality got on my nerves.
I also have two serious issues with aspects of Six Impossible Things. Firstly, throughout the Splintered series there has been an emphasis on virginity, which didn’t stop in Untamed. I don’t consider myself a radical feminist, but I do think there are a lot of problems with how we as a society view and value virginity, and I didn’t like how much importance Alyssa’s purity was given. I was unreasonably annoyed by the emphasis both boys placed on being ‘first’ with Alyssa, and how excited she was when she realized she had reverted back to her ‘untouched’, AKA virgin state when she went back to Wonderland and Morpheus. I wanted to shake Alyssa and yell ‘WHY ARE YOU WITH SOMEONE WHO APPRECIATES YOUR STATUS AS VIRGIN MORE THAN YOUR STATUS AS QUEEN?’.
My second big issue with Six Impossible Things is the emphasis on youthfulness. Although I understood Alyssa’s awkwardness about her 80-ish years compared to Morpheus’ eternal youth, I wanted her to be less vain and self-conscious about it. I didn’t want her to want to hide her body from Morpheus, or constantly grumble about how old and unattractive she was. I wanted her to really use and celebrate those 80 years of experience, and family, and love, in her new life in Wonderland, rather than bounce around experiencing all those ‘firsts’ for the second time around. Even in the scene of her and Jeb as an elderly couple, there was a reversion back to their time as bright young things, their honeymoon night, when I would have preferred that they really celebrate all their time together.
This is YA, which means that it’s largely meant for teens. But to me, this doesn’t excuse the ageism here. If Howard wanted to write a story where Alyssa is in her eighties, I want her to really commit to this, and honor it.
Also, I skimmed all of the Morpheus parts because I was still so burningly angry with him from Boy in the Web. I will never be able to read the Splintered series again, because whenever he comes up I’ll end up throwing the book across the room. Only those lovely covers are even keeping the series on my bookshelf.
Amazingly, my strongest emotion wasn’t anger–it was disappointment. Had Untamed been done well, it could have altered my view of the series for the better. Instead, it exacerbated all of the problems of the series, and definitely changed my opinions of the other books for the worse.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.