By Cynthia Bujnicki
Reeling from her recent battle with the Black Knight, Alice decides she must venture deeper into Wonderland to solve the riddle that is the Black Knight and save the people she loves and both worlds from Nightmares, Darkness, and Destruction.
A Dream So Dark picks up where A Blade So Black left off with Alice losing her friend and facing the wrath of her mother who has no idea what she is doing. LL McKinney continues her diverse and modern spin of Lewis Carroll’s classic with a riveting story filled with non-stop action.
In this novel, Alice encapsulates the essence of Black Girl Magic. She is such a fierce and fun character and rises above stereotypes. Her personality is both unique but also relatable. McKinney works hard to create a believable character, a girl who loves to cosplay loves Sailor Moon (because who does not), and has a tense relationship with her mother (like most teenage girls – especially ones with a secret job as a magical crime fighter). All of these elements work cohesively as they bring to life this character. They work to make her believable, leading the reader to connect to her and invest in her emotionally.
The character dynamics also continue to grow in this novel as the characters grow. The reader gets to know Hatta more as well as his connection to the Black Knight. By giving both of these characters, some perspective McKinney gives the story some more depth and history while also expanding the scope of representation and diversity in the novel.
There are some LGBT references in the novel, but they are just touched upon. While representation matters, they also feel thrown into the novel, utterly random to the point where at times, they have no bearing on the novel. It is unfortunate, but honestly, the novel would have been the same without them because they do not have a large enough impact on the story or the characters.
Nevertheless, A Dream So Dark was terrific. The way McKinney brings in the elements of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to life and reinvents them is impressive. As vibrant as the original, this novel has an incredible pace and non-stop action. There is also an incredible amount of character development from all the characters. The voices of the characters only got stronger as the story progressed, creating stronger dynamics and richer reading experience. (★★★★☆)