Author: A. G. Howard
Review: Ensnared is the 3rd and final book in the Splintered trilogy even though there is another book Untamed (Splintered 3.5). This book picks up almost immediately where the second left off. Alyssa is out of the asylum and taking her father on a train ride filled with memories, which he uncovers his past, Alyssa does some digging into her enemies past even though there aren’t a lot of memories she hopes there is something she can use against Red to recover those that have been lost to AnyElsewhere. With the rabbit hole destroyed Alyssa’s only hope of getting there is that her father remembers how to get there the same way he did when he was a child. Once the memories are recovered and stored the duo make the first step in saving their loved ones; finding Humphrey’s Inn and halfway house between the magical and mortal realms. I liked the fact this book centers around Alyssa but her father’s thoughts and emotions play a massive part in this novel without him Alyssa can’t get back into Wonderland and save those she loves most. As Alyssa’s father recovers more of his memories and remembers who he is, he recovers his family and the skills he was taught as a white knight; a guardian of AnyElsewhere meaning he is the key Alyssa desperately seeks, the key to her family’s freedom and to the salvation of Wonderland.
As Alyssa and her father enter AnyElsewhere they are struck by how decrepit and desolate it is. Alyssa is also contemplating whether she did the right thing by returning her father’s memories tainting his life with death, destruction and madness. She also comes across Morpheus who appears to be slightly more mad than before but he is always himself around Alyssa and she is constantly reminded of Ivory’s vision of their future although her father still doesn’t trust him and only wants to get Allison and leave Wonderland for good without even considering that Alyssa as the Red Queen has other duties like restoring the portals to Wonderland. Father and daughter are learning to work together and trust each other and are faced with their first challenge in this other realm; a riddle in which a wrong answer could spell disaster for everyone. Morpheus also warns Alyssa that Jeb isn’t the same person he was when he arrived and Red now inhabits the body of a former Red Queen but like the other Netherlings her power is weakened by the iron dome. After finding Jeb Alyssa realizes he has mutated into a netherlings being able to use magic and make his paintings come to life. These painting attack Alyssa as she is the object of Jeb’s rage, he has become the unpredictable weak link in the chain that Alyssa needs to face Red. As everything she knows begins to fall apart Alyssa wonders if she will be short enough to face Red without one of her knights.
Alyssa’s relationship with her father is strained on their first night in AnyElsewhere, and her relationship with Jeb is becoming dark as she learns Jeb fused with Morpheus’ magic when they were brought through the gate turning him into something that isn’t human and to top it off she is becoming more and more attached to Morpheus. She wishes she could tear herself into two and give everyone their happy ending but she knows this is not the way the world works no matter which one she resides in as she can no longer neglect her duties to the netherlings realm. As Alyssa explores the mountain cave with rooms full of Jeb’s memories she realizes her Jeb is still there just buried beneath a façade of hate and anger, but there’s a room filled with Red’s memories, memories that Jeb couldn’t know existed. Alyssa becomes more and more confused about what happened to Jeb after he was brought to AnyElsewhere and more determined than ever to uncover the truth and solve the riddles once and for all. In searching the caves she uncovers Red’s true plan embedded in her forgotten memories in which Jeb plays a crucial role, she also realises she can’t destroy Red without destroying the one she loves, now she has to navigate this dilemma along with the others she faces. Her netherlings desires also grow stronger making her attraction to Morpheus almost undeniable but she understands she has other people to help and others she wishes to please making her feel like she’s being torn in two.
The truth of Alyssa’s task is shown; she has to let Red possess her again in order to save her father from the poison the Queen of Hearts has the antidote to and Red currently inhabits her. Once Red is inside Alyssa she will have use her power to reverse the crumbling of the nether realm and then harness the power of Red’s memories to drive her out of her body where she can be destroyed once and for all. So far this book just seems like one disaster or trail after another for Alyssa, testing her strength to its limit with no end in sight just yet. But the worst part is Alyssa knows if she fails Red will destroy both worlds and along with them everyone she loves will be gone too. I loved the fact that Alyssa manages to use a power born of hatred to free Jeb and make him see that his still has a life in the mortal realm with his family, with her but an unforeseen consequence of this is they a potential way to destroy Red without her having to inhabit Alyssa’s body again. Morpheus behind the other backs goes to the castle with Chessie, while he is captured Chessie makes it back with the antidote. Red/Queen of Hearts plans to cut out Morpheus’ still beating heart and Alyssa knows his capture was part of his plan forcing Alyssa’s hand to meet Red head on. But in the prior struggle with the bats the dairy containing Red’s memories is gone so Alyssa is relying on Jeb as her backup as they plus Chessie are the only beings that can use magic in AnyElsewhere.
After getting into the castle Alyssa challenges Red to claim her but Red has issues of her own with the Queen of Hearts fighting her to claims Alyssa’s heart rather than her body. After being subdued Alyssa is apparently right in the middle of a wedding ceremony; hers to Morpheus. This is a bit confusing as she open recently accepted Jeb’s proposal and with Jeb lingering somewhere in the castle I have a feeling this is not the right time for a wedding. I loved how Howard constantly blindsides us with new challenges and trials for the characters while keeping her true agenda hidden right up until the final pages, it is an amazing way of writing and keep the reader truly gripped until the last word. In the following chapters Alyssa’s heart is literally being torn in two while hearing Red and Hart’s plan but for her own survival she becomes one with Red despite knowing Red is going to kill Jeb so that Alyssa can be free of her vow and marry Morpheus. The sheer cruelty Red harbours is disheartening and frightening all at once to Alyssa but her visions encourage her to stride forward and protect both her worlds and everyone that resides within them.
Alyssa manages to awaken Red’s memories from within her mind and turn the table so she is the one in charge of their shared body but in her rage and anguish over Jeb’s death in the pool of fears she attempts to kill Morpheus. The dead Jeb turn out to be CC and once again it is all part of Morpheus’ plans but despite taming Red and saving Jeb they cannot celebrate as they now have to face the Doldrums destroying Wonderland but Alyssa hasn’t the strength as she has been using Red’s power which is now waning to keep her torn heart together but it is only her, Red and Ivory that can stop the menace invading and rebuild Wonderland. After learning of the true sacrifice made by both her knights in order to save her life Alyssa is prepared to unleash her full force upon Sister Two.
The final scenes of this novel are filled with so many emotions; the strongest of all is unconditional love in many different forms. Alyssa’s final words as a human are amazing yet sad as many of her beloved ones did; her mother, father and Jeb yet even in the depths of grief Morpheus welcomes her back with open arms and becomes her king allowing Ivory’s vision to come true in their near future. Overall the book was the one that really bound me to the series and to A G Howard’s writing which has been filled with a heart-wrenching love story, multiple strange and mysterious worlds and above all the desire to seek out and obtain what our hearts desire most. I am extremely saddened that this is the final book in the trilogy, even though there is a companion novel Untamed I am sad to see the end of this series and so many wonderful awe-inspiring characters.
This book was sent to me for review by Abrams & Chronicle
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Also see: Splintered by A. G. Howard