Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

In A Blade so Black, L.L. McKinney reimagined a beloved classic and made it relevant to today’s issues.

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.

— Goodreads Goodreads

I received an eARC of A Blade So Black from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A Blade So Black is a fantastic, wonderful book.  It was great to read a classic tale told from the perspective of a person of color, especially a black girl. I want to see more classic tales and tropes reimagined by authors of color. Seeing McKinney breathe new life into Alice in Wonderland makes me want to see authors of color take the helm and how they put a new spin an old classic.

As I read along, I was delighted to find that there were so many things I could relate to cultural wise. A Blade So Blade is a very black book. I think that led McKinney to move away from the common YA trope of an absentee or dead parent. However, that’s just speculation on my part. I deeply enjoyed that Alice’s mother was around.

I know some people hate the absentee or dead parent trope, so this was a nice reversal of that. It was satisfying to see a character have an involved mother (even if she was overprotective), who was worried about their safety. Also, it just felt very realistic. My mom would blow up my phone just as much as Alice’s mom did if I didn’t answer my phone. It made me want to see more active and involved parents who kind of get in the way, but doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Lastly, I felt that Alice was a well-rounded character. Although she was a warrior, she had a nerdy side as well. Alice wasn’t just the quintessential badass, who kicks ass and makes witty quips. I liked that she wasn’t one-dimensional in that sense, and she wasn’t the typical action girl. I love these hybrid versions of tropes, and I hope to see more of them.

Overall, I found A Blade So Black to be amazing, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. You can pick up a copy on Amazon or Indiebound.

You can also check out our interview with Alice here, and our author interview with L.L. McKinney here!


Title: A Blade So Blade
Author: L.L. McKinney
Publisher: Macmillan
Length: 384 Pages
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★ / Five stars
Genre: Fantasy
Representation: Black main character, black woman author,
Tropes: Dead parent

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