A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney (Nightmare-Verse, #2)

Still reeling from her recent battle (and grounded until she graduates), Alice must abandon her friends to complete her mission: find The Heart and prevent the Red Lady's rise. But the deeper she ventures into Wonderland, the more topsy-turvy everything becomes. It’s not until she’s at her wits end that she realizes—Wonderland is trying to save her.

There’s a new player on the board; a poet capable of using Nightmares to not only influence the living but raise the dead. This Poet is looking to claim the Black Queen’s power—and Alice's budding abilities—as their own.

Dreams have never been so dark in Wonderland, and if there is any hope of defeating this mystery poet’s magic, Alice must confront the worst in herself, in the people she loves, and in the very nature of fear itself.

TITLE: A Dream So Dark
AUTHOR: L.L. McKinney
PUBLISHER: Titan Books Ltd
YEAR: 2019
LENGTH: 432 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s).

A Dream So Dark is a fast-moving and bloody sequel, swiftly cycling through heroes as they barely dare to rest; trying to save Wonderland and rescue their friends. More Nightmares and darkness; the anguish of fighting former friends and the joy of making new ones. 

I loved this book, I had a great time reading it, and I'm currently giddy over some very cool stuff that was revealed and something I think I figured out (but I won't know if I'm right until the third book). I continue to enjoy Alice, she really comes into her own here, figuring out how to be strong in a way that fits her. I like how the stuff with her mom is handled, that tension was a very stressful part of the first book and I think it works out in a way that makes sense for everyone, giving the characters what they need without feeling like it was resolved just for the sake of the plot.

I'm still over the moon about Addison; in the first book I loved him as a new version of the Mad Hatter (my favorite Alice in Wonderland character) and in this one I love him as himself, every dark-backstoried, trying-to-do-the-right-thing, finding-new-joy bit of him. 

Since this is the second book in what looks like it will just be a trilogy I'm doing my usual check to see how well this works, both on its own and as book two of three. I look to see whether the story gets to finish any plot threads from the first book, whether it starts any of its own to be resolved later, and whether it feels solid enough as a story to have its own narrative arc. Sometimes a book two can be great without these things, but if a story ever feels incomplete it's usually because on of those pieces is missing. I'm very happy with this book on all three fronts. There are some problems which were known in the first book and resolved at different stages of this one, a really good arc that fits mostly within this volume, and some stuff that had better be resolved in the third one because I'm on the edge of my seat. I was left with a great blend between closure and anticipation, and I'm enjoying it.

The battles felt good to read, with a nice blend between describing the literal moves and the mental/emotional struggle between the fighters. As for world-building, we get some new characters in the mundane world and some really fantastic people and places in Wonderland. It made Wonderland feel more solid, like it's a place where someone might actually live and not just somewhere Alice visits to fight Nightmares. I'm very excited to find out what the third book will bring.

CW for violence, murder, descriptions of wounds.

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A young Black woman crouches in a lean, one hand lightly balancing on the ground, the other wrapped around the hilt of a sword.


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