A Blade so Black, L L McKinney – Book Review

Hello Humans! It is at last time to review another of my Ownvember reads, I purchased this book back in October when on a trip to Foyles in London and it took me quite a while to get to reading it but I am so glad I did.

a blade so black L L McKinney

Goodreads Summary:

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.

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I have read a number of Alice in Wonderland retellings and usually, my criticism of them comes down to one thing, the lack of whimsy. Lewis Carrol’s original work is straight up weird and retellings usually skim over that in favour or gritty dark queens or heartwarming prequels that paint everything in a new light. So when A Blade So Black was pitched as Alice in Wonderland meets Buffy I was expecting there to be little to no whimsy and I would be writing the same review as I’ve written before.

I am so delighted to have been wrong.

L L McKinney somehow manages to achieve what I thought to be impossible, to write the mixture of whimsy and grit, to create something that truly feels like it has sprung from Carrol’s work rather than just using his characters to craft a narrative. But the new story that McKinney tells is also hugely powerful and has that darkness to it that really captivates me as a reader.

I, a white lady, don’t want to make my voice too important in the discussion of this book so, if you haven’t already, I suggest you check out some OwnVoices reviews, there are a lot on the Goodreads page and a quick search also turns up quite a few more.

This is the monster/demon/nightmare slaying book we all need, especially if you have read or appreciated Alice in Wonderland in the past, it’s always fun finding those little allusions to the original text in there. But this book is fully modern, it tackles modern day issues and feelings and has a powerhouse protagonist that you can’t help but love reading.

There were a few things that I didn’t enjoy, but all of them are personal preference things, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘I have to hide my secret job from my friends and family’ plotline because I personally feel it slows the book down at times. But I can see how it’s very important to have that within this story and in the context of this book.

I think people should read this book, it’s a great example of a retelling of a classic story that pulls in the modern day. As I say, have a read of some Ownvoices reviews but I would highly suggest giving this a read!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

I bought this book myself, all opinions are my own.

What say you? Is this on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!


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