Cover Image: A Blade So Black

A Blade So Black

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Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher and netgalley! Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Blade So Black

Author: L. L. McKinley

Book Series: The Nightmare-Verse Book 1

Diversity: Own voice! African American main character FTW!

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Publisher: Square Fish

Pages: 384

Recommended Age: 15+ (violence, gore)

Synopsis: 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.

Review: I thought this book was really well written and was a great twist on the original Alice tale. The voice and the characters were well done and the writing was spectacular.

The only down points to me were that the pacing was a bit slow for my tastes and I thought some of the action scenes were a bit chaotic and a little hard to follow, but that might have been me reading at close to midnight lol. I also know what the author has said on Twitter but for the purpose of this review I'm leaving it out. Her book was great and if you're an Alice lover you'll love this tale.

Verdict: A great retelling!
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I had had high hopes for this book, A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney but I think book wasn't for me. I have tried many times to read this book. I just can't get through it.
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I honestly don’t like Alice in Wonderland very much? That goes for both the animated and live action films Disney has made. I’ve yet to read Lewis Carroll’s books, though that’s something I’d like to do one day. That doesn’t stop me from going for Alice retellings, especially when the author pitches it as “What if Buffy fell down the rabbit hole instead of Alice?” AND Y’ALL, IT’S SO GOOD. I’m genuinely mad at myself for sitting on it for over a year before reading it.

Alison “Alice” Kingston is Black, bi, good at hunting Nightmare monsters, and bad at keeping her clothes free of horrifically stinky Nightmare goo, but when the supposedly vanquished Black Knight attacks her and uses her to poison Wonderland’s guardian Hatta, she’s also the best hope Wonderland and Atlanta have. I also adore her deeply and ship her with just about everyone. (That includes the Black Knight because he hits my weakness for antagonists in all the right places. C’mon, he puts her to bed and compliments her even when they’re fighting! I LOVE THIS.)

Though the Nightmare-hunting pretty much controls Alice’s life, she has plenty of real-life problems like grieving over her father’s death, her mother’s overprotective nature, and the recent murder of a Black girl by police officers. Whether Alice is journeying through Wonderland to find Hatta a cure or sneaking around in Atlanta so her mother doesn’t find out what she’s doing, A Blade So Black is grounded in both its setting and its ideas. You’ll get a good mix of drama and humor out of this book.

It’s creative and clever in how it incorporates characters from Carroll’s novels into the story, surprising in its twists, so gripping you might read the entire novel in one or two sittings,… Just let me shower all the compliments on this book, okay? The start of the book is a bit slow due to the first four chapters or so taking place roughly a year before the rest of the book, but things pick up after that and I couldn’t stop reading.

A Blade So Black is such fun that I don’t really want to put words to it. I’d rather throw the book at you and demand you read it–which is what I’ll do to my best friend the next time I see her, incidentally. I hurried to the bookstore to grab A Dream So Dark as soon as I could after finishing this book and I’m already in the middle of reading it. Do you like Alice in Wonderland? Urban fantasy? Paranormal shenanigans? Then get A Blade So Black in your hands.
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Read this for our month staff pick. Such a good read. It was a company wide fave. Would  definitely recommend. Loved the diversity.
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OK this took me a long time to actually get through, so much so that I had to get the audiobook instead. I love the narration of this, love the action and loved the cliffhanger.
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Alice in Wonderland in this twisted fairy tale with Black characters.. Readers will be dying to go down the rabbit hole with this one!
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A new twist on Alice in Wonderland, this book takes you into another dimension with an updated main character.  She is a spunky young black woman who is not to be taken lightly.  I love the power Alice is given in this novel!  You might like this book if you enjoy fractured fairy tales.
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I personally had with the book: the writing and the actual story wasn't as on point as I was hoping it would be. I didn't really like the characters or the "quest" of the book. Unfortunately, to me, the characters all felt like they were written from a basic bag of trope. I also never got into the plot, and the world building wasn't that great. Perhaps it's because the writing wasn't particularly excellent, but as it's LL McKinney's first book, I am sure she will grow as a writer in future books. This book wasn't especially well-crafted in my opinion, but everyone has their own unique taste in what they like to read.
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The cover of this is amazing, and the twist on Alice in Wonderland is very well done. 

It will appeal to a lot of people, but particularly to African American teens who are just flirting with the idea of enjoying fantasy fiction.
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Not at all what I was wanting, but I was hesitant starting this. I'll have to avoid similar stories in the future.
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Oh man, this book was FUNNY. As funny as it was action-packed, and the incorporation of all the familiar Alice in Wonderland elements was genius. I love me a sassy, courageous girl MC!
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Readers expecting a strict retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland featuring an African American protagonist will find themselves a little disappointed.  On the other hand, if readers expect to read something a little more like Colleen Oakes’ Queen of Hearts trilogy or A. G. Howard’s Splintered series, they will be more inclined to embrace the plot. Allison “Alice” Kingston has a foot firmly planted in two places: Atlanta, Georgia and Wonderland. Those two worlds collided when Alice’s father was killed and the Nightmares started. With the help and training of Addison Hatta (Hatter), Alice goes in to Wonderland and vanquishes the Nightmares; however, the Nightmares are starting to intrude more and more frequently in the human world.  While Alice is in Wonderland fighting nightmares, life in the human world goes on, and Alice’s absences are increasingly impinging on her time with friends and her mother. Additionally, violence and murder happening in Alice’s human neighborhood have her mother on edge and exercising her parental prerogatives. Things come to a head when the Black Knight infects Hatta with a poison, creating a final quest for Alice as she attempts to set everything in Wonderland--and Atlanta--to right.  Uneven plotting and characters who behaved capriciously kept this from being one of my personal favorites (I am more of a fan of Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone), but less discriminating readers will like the urban setting, the magical realism and the homage to Alice in Wonderland--even though they may not like the abrupt ending that is, no doubt, leading to a sequel.
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I love creative retellings, and A Blade So Black did not disappoint. I loved being plunged back into an urban fantasy - I feel like no one wanted to compete with Cassandra Clare on that front, but I LOVED this effort. This is definitely well done and warrants inclusion in any classroom library.
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DNF. It felt too much like a bad remake of City of Bones. The dialogue was off; the characters were bland. It just didn't seem worth finishing.
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This book kept me on the edge of my seat. A Blade So Black is an action packed modern day telling of Alice In Wonderland taking place in Atlanta
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This was fun! As a general rule, I loathe portal fantasies, but I appreciated the attention the author paid to a) having an actual curfew & school as a monster fighting bad ass and b) actually making the world building make sense in a "this world inspired Lewis Carroll" way. Also whatever I am basic but I Ship the Bad Boy ship, let me go down in brooding YA boy flames.  

Things also appreciated: lady friends! Entertaining twins! Lesbians!
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One Sentence Synopsis: The retelling my Alice in Wonderland and Buffy the Vampire Slayer loving heart deserves and needs more of.

Why You Should Be Reading: First of all and most importantly, why isn’t this a movie already? It’s got a badass black woman who fights creatures in a dark realm while trying to juggle her family and a slipping GPA. Alice feels real. You could be Alice. I could be Alice. He, she, we can be Alice. Her woes as a woman/daughter/student are just as important as the ones that go bump in the night in the form of monstrous creatures known as Nightmares. 

And it’s not just Alice who feels real and memorable. The characters that surround her are just as important and well developed, leading to a rich tapestry of storytelling that makes you HELLA INVESTED in A Blade So Black. 

P.S. McKinney is already working on Book 2 so you have time to read the 1st one!

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Urban Fantasy, POC Lead

Learn more about the author HERE.

Buy A Blade So Black HERE.

Add A Blade So Black HERE.
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I first want to thank Netgalley for giving me permission to read this title. The book was an amazing read. I think that I will most definitely be ordering this book to put on the shelves at our library. I believe that the teens will thoroughly enjoy it.
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I love retellings!  This one, in particular, was fun for me.  I found Alice quite relatable, I love that she is a black cosplayer!  Black girls/women in cosplay are rarely showcased in literature, so that made it more fun for me.  I enjoyed the pace of the book, it was easy to find a stopping point (which can be just as good as not putting it down, this is a good thing for this book). Every time I picked it back up, it felt like a fresh start, which is how I felt reading the original Alice in Wonderland.  Love girls kicking ass while having a male cohort that doesn’t seek to steal her shine entirely throughout the story (Alice needs no savior!).  I look forward to the next installment!
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A magical, fantastical, diverse reimagining of Alice and Wonderland, I was perfect from start to finish!
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