Blogtober Day 9, Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Genre: YA – Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book feels fitting for October, with its darker take on Alice in Wonderland.

Alice has a secret; since her father died, she’s been training to battle monsters, known as Nightmares, in Wonderland. But Alice still has to go to school, and still has to placate her mother, especially after a young Black woman is shot in the area.But when her handsome mentor is poisoned, Alice has to venture deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before.

A Blade So Black is a really good YA novel, and the start of a very promising series. I’m keen to get my hands on the second book, and the only slight niggles I had was the writing itself here wasn’t always great, but it wasn’t enough to be truly bothersome – just the kind of thing likely to be smoothed out in later books by the author.

Alice is a really great protagonist, someone it is exceptionally easy to root for throughout. She’s constantly trying to do the right thing, whether it’s placating her mother and considering giving up something she loves doing so her mother doesn’t have to go through the pain of losing her, or finding ways to try and protect her friends, whether they’re from Wonderland or Atlanta.

I really liked the relationship development throughout this. Alice’s best friend Courtney is supportive, until she feels like she’s been side-lined by Alice’s job, and the speed-bump in their friendship felt really reflective of the kind of thing teenage girls do fall out over. Chess makes up the third part of their trio, and the way he interacts with Alice is really sweet. Alice’s mentor (and crush) is Hatta, and again, there were some sweet scenes between these two that made you really cheer them on.

It was great to see a YA character with at least one loving, caring parent – something I’ll always cheer on in YA. In the context of the novel, Alice’s mother’s actions and attitude feels realistic and understandable. A teenage Black girl has been shot shortly before the novel starts, and with their ages being close, Alice’s mother is scared at the idea of losing her, too, and Alice understands; she even considers quitting her ‘job’ so her mother doesn’t end up in that position.

It’s a lovely dynamic, and means her mother is often the reason Alice can’t be with Hatta or go instantly to Wonderland, but handled in a way you have complete understanding of why.

This book is great and a lot of fun, and a wonderful retelling of a classic story. If you like YA Portal Fantasy, definitely worth a go.


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