A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
Warnings: death of parent, fantasy violence, mentions of a black person being shot
This was quite an interesting retelling of Alice in Wonderland, in that it shared the setting and a bit of the backstory with the original, but gives a whole new role to the character of Alice. In A Blade so Black, Alice is a teen who was recruited to be a protector to the gates of Wonderland. After the death of her father, being a warrior gave her a sense of purpose, and in a short while she is good at it. Now, a year into her job, a new threat has arisen in Wonderland, which reeks of its past. Having a dual life as a black girl living with a protective mother and a warrior in another world is not the easiest thing for her, and especially not when she has so much emotions, including her grief and fear, swirling in her.
As I mentioned before, this book reworks the magic of Wonderland and gives it a more darker cast, and a bloody history involving attempted necromancy. The characters of Wonderland, while not all present, have new roles – one of which is Addison Hatta, who is her mentor/crush, and Maddie, who is the Wonderland edition of a witch. Along with them and other such warriors. The book presents her real life concerns very well – how she struggles with being a warrior given that it is a dangerous job, and her mother would be devastated if something happened to her. Her own fears about the people she loves is set against her duty repeatedly, and so is her cover in the real world. The parts about Wonderland are also done well enough, but I felt the world-building a bit lacking in that regard.
Overall, a nice start to an Alice in Wonderland-inspired retelling, with a complex protagonist and high stakes.
Is it diverse? Black girl protagonist; sapphic side couple
4 thoughts on “Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney”
Wow, I saw it a while back on twitter and was shocked by the cover, IT WAS BREATH TAKING. I never seen such a cover and told myself, “you need to get that book” But then 2018 was pretty heavy with all those new releases
Thanks for the review, Ruth!
Now i really want to read it.
Great review, I’ve been really curious about this one but unsure if I wanted to start it up or not. Sounds like it’s one that I should start!
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