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Young Adult Fiction 1041
A subversive, epic sequel in a must-read series
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*This review contains spoilers for book one, A BLADE SO BLACK*

A DREAM SO DARK, sequel to A BLADE SO BLACK, follows where the first book left off: Alice is in deep trouble with her mom, Hatta is on the verge of Madness, and the evil coming from Wonderland is still a mystery. There is so much to love in A DREAM SO DARK, from the action-packed plot, the deeper world building, and the mystery.

Being a Dreamwalker and having to go in and out of Wonderland where time is wonky, Alice is constantly disappearing, not answering calls, and generally scaring her mom to high levels of worry. Alice is torn between telling her mom the truth and possibly putting her in danger (or her mom disbelieving her entirely). I love how their relationship is always a central part to the story: two family members who love each other dearly and would do anything to protect the other. As the danger in Alice's secret world increases, she will have to decide sooner rather than later what to tell her mom.

While there were a few times I struggled to understand what was happening plot wise, by the end, we get a good explanation of what's going on and, importantly, what no one understands yet. Through the twists and turns in the plot, we are introduced to more areas of Wonderland and more information on the other Gates. There is so much rich world building in this story that I continuously found myself hoping we'll get several more installments in this series just to learn more about McKinney's Wonderland and to get to know the new characters better. I've never been a big fan of the original Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, but McKinney's take on Wonderland and the complex, lovable characters she creates in this series have made me at least appreciate the original for being part of this series's inspiration.

While romance takes a back seat to the adventure, the romance(s) is so well done that I can't not comment on it. The central and secondary casts are primarily queer, and Alice has multiple romantic interests. A BLADE SO BLACK alludes to more of a love triangle, but truly, the trope is subverted in this series. Alice doesn't spend significant amounts of time worrying which person she likes the most. She's occupied with saving the world (multiple times) that, while she definitely has feelings for some people, she doesn't have the time to focus or explore them too deeply. There's just enough romance to add in swoons, butterflies, some drama, and set up the potential for more in future books. (And to clarify, romance is in no way treated as anything 'lesser' or unattainable in this series. Just not something there is room to resolve yet).

A DREAM SO DARK takes everything I loved in A BLADE SO BLACK (Wonderlandian adventures, kick-butt fight scenes, hilarious dialogue, and a top notch cast of characters) and multiples it by ten. This is a series you can sink into and stay awhile, and I hope we get more sequels!
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