A Blade so black by LL McKinney
Format: ARC provided by Raincoast Books
Published by Macmillan
Top 3 Genres: Retelling, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
My rating: Set it on fire/If you have nothing else to read/you need to read it/Run and buy it.
To buy the book : CA • US • FR • Bookdep
Add to: Goodreads
Hello bookdragon! I’m back to present you this newly released book: A Blade so black, an urban fantasy Alice retelling, with a bit of Buffy on the side!
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.
Alice with a twist
A blade so black is definitively a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. All the elements are there: the Mad Hatter, potions to drink, magical mushrooms, talking plants and even a Queen of Hearts! But more than just having these elements, it is how they are implanted in a new story that matters. And it is so well done here! The Mad Hatter, for example, is Addison Hatta, a young boy with green hair and incredible eyes. We have the Vorpal Sword too, the Queen of Harts who became evil and a mysterious bartender/Poet able to make magical potions! This is without mentioning Alice, a black girl in Atlanta, going to school by day and killing Nightmares by night. She has friends, a phone and all that you can expect from a 21st-century teenage…. but she also travels to Wonderland! It’s a bit strange to see such a mix work, but it does!
In the 21st century USA
When I say that Alice is truly a modern girl, she is a black teenager in the USA aka, this book talks about racism. About a mom being super afraid her little girl will be shoot just for having a certain skin color. Because it happens. In the book and in real life. Adding this diverse aspect in the story allowed to anchor the book in our time and in the problems we are facing each day. It also makes Alice more interesting if I can say. Her life is not easy, no matter on which side of the Looking Glass she is, and we can really empathize with her struggles and frustration.
In addition to Alice, this book is full of other interesting characters: Court and Chess, her « real world » friends, but also Hatta, the Twins (also hunting Nightmares), the White Princess and many others. They try to work together to save Wonderland and the people they love, and their quest is of the epic kind: finding mysterious objects of power, defeating evil and more. I really liked how they were portrayed and developed through the book.
The problem with this team of characters? The tropes and inconsistencies they were exposed to in the plot (like time passing differently in Wonderland and Earth. Good concept but some errors in its application). The beginning was good and kept me interesting but toward the end, it was more of cliche actions or character reactions or things out there just to be able to say they were. Some characters got more interesting but others really became cliches.
In a few words
I loved how the elements of Alice in Wonderland were used here to recreated a diverse and so modern version of the story. It was captivating, but as with a lot of debut authors, the story was not flowing as it could have and cliches appeared. It did not prevent me to really enjoy this book 🙂
See you for a cup,