I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
Release date: September 25th, 2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Genres: Young adult, fantasy, retelling
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.
I surprisingly ended up really enjoying this book! I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. I thought the cover looked badass and requested it on NetGalley purely based on that. I unfortunately never read it when it was originally released. Things came up and I pretty much stopped blogging. However, in an effort to clear my list of pending books for review I decided to pick it up and give it a chance. Let me just say, the first few chapters weren’t very promising. I thought about giving up but I’m so glad that I didn’t. This seems to be a running theme with many of the books that I’ve read lately. Hmmm…
A Blade So Black is a reimagining of the Alice in Wonderland story with a black teenage heroine. It takes place in two main locations: the world we live in (Atlanta) and Wonderland. I found the first few chapters to be very disorienting because I was basically thrown straight into a magical world with very little explanation or worldbuilding. I wish the author would have spent some time building things up so I had more knowledge or background on Wonderland and Alice’s story. That said, things are slowly explained and the worldbuilding is handled much better as the book progresses.
My favourite part of the book was Alice. She was a fantastic character and hard not to like. I immediately became interested in her story and that’s what really kept me going at the beginning until things started coming together. Alice isn’t one of those special chosen characters who are good at everything right away without any worries in her life. She has to deal with a lot of issues in both the real world and Wonderland. For example, in the real world, she has to deal with normal teenage issues such as crushes, hormones, peer pressure but also gun violence and racism. Another aspect I really liked about A Blade So Black was the relationship between Alice and her mom. I really don’t get why so many YA books either have absent parents or parents who are just really awful. In the story, Alice and her mom have a very complex relationship that I could relate to. I won’t go into much detail but it was definitely well done and refreshing to see.
I would recommend this book to people who love modern retellings of classic stories or the Wonderland story in general. It’s a lot of fun to read, packed with action, well-developed characters and beautiful relationships. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, A Dream So Dark, very soon!
About the Author
Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear.
Elle’s also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan, living in Kansas City. She spends her free time plagued by her cat–Sir Chester Fluffmire Boopsnoot Purrington Wigglebottom Flooferson III, esquire, Baron o’Butterscotch or #SirChester for short.
Her works include the Nightmare-Verse books, starting with the A BLADE SO BLACK trilogy, and an upcoming graphic novel for DC featuring Nubia, Wonder Woman’s twin sister, and more.