- Page Count: 368
- Release Date: January 30, 2018
- Publisher: Flatiron Books
- My Rating: 4 stars
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
Ok, that was one of the most mesmerizing, creepy, and creative stories I’ve ever read!
Alice grew up moving from place to place with her mom whenever “bad luck” and weird situations caught up to them. (Ex: she was kidnapped once when she was a kid, but the guy just bought her blueberry pancakes and then showed up a decade later at Alice’s job looking the exact same age). Her grandmother wrote a book of dark fairy tales and became a recluse with a cult following before dying on her estate (the Hazel Wood). Alice never met her, though, and just has her mother:
“She took care of me and I took care of her, in a symbiotic relationship that looked cute on TV but felt fucking exhausting when you’re moving for the third time in a year and don’t even have a bedroom door to slam.”
One day Alice’s mother is taken in a string of creepy incidents and it becomes clear that the Hinterland (the world from the fairy tale book) is real. It’s next to impossible to get a copy of the book, but a guy at Alice’s school is flat out obsessed with the stories. He knows every detail, so they embark on a mission to get Alice’s mother back. I loved his reasons for being such a huge fan:
“There are no lessons in [the book]. There’s just this harsh, horrible world touched with beautiful magic, where shitty things happen. And they don’t happen for a reason, or in threes, or in a way that looks like justice. They’re set in a place that has no rules and doesn’t want any. And the author’s voice – your grandmother’s voice – is perfectly pitiless. She’s like a war reporter.”
The story itself was incredibly magical, gritty, and unique, but the writing was what really drew me in. This book was just SO easy to read. I mean, the writing is absolutely amazing. There were several times I wanted to put it down because I usually prefer stories that are more… glitter and lightheartedness? Whatever. My point is this ended up being a bit darker than I expected and different than something I’d usually fangirl over, but I could not put this book down. I think it mostly worked for me because it still had a hopeful note to it!
The writing created the most vivid imagery and a wonderful aura of cultish superstition & possibility. I’ve heard this compared to The Raven Cycle and do see a slight similarity, buuuut also think that series was more whimsical. I’m still not sure if I actually enjoyed this story as a whole, but it was so well done that I just need to fangirl over that!
The fact that I cared about the main character even though I didn’t necessarily like her shows how strong the writing was. And I still appreciated how flawed, messy, and real Alice was. Everything about this book was strong. The characters, the ideas, the world, the writing… everything.
I also loved how much this book was about the power of stories (and Stories). Alice marks locations by whatever she was reading at the time and so many of my favorites were mentioned! I don’t want to say much more about the actual plot because the book isn’t released for another 6 months. But I definitely would recommend preordering this one if you like magical realism!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC. The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.