I have been so excited for this book! Ever since I saw the cover reveal for it, it has taken everything I have to wait patiently for the book to be released. Now, I finally got the chance to read the book! Here is my review:
Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.
Review: I have conflicting thoughts regarding this book. While I finished it in just a few days, this wasn’t a perfect story for me with an equal portion of things I liked and didn’t like.
First of all, I absolutely loved the premise. It was so dark and it played perfectly with my love of dark faerie tales.
But this story took a LONG time to get going. The story begins with Alice telling us how she and her mother, Ella, have never had a stable home because they’ve been running away from this bad luck that keeps following them. When Alice’s mother gets kidnapped, Alice is determined to find her. While this is a very noble endeavour, I was bored out of my mind. There were all of these creepy hints about the Hinterland, but nothing really full blown for the longest time. It got to a point where I was ready to pull my hair out if Alice mentioned one more time about how she and her mother were always on the run. The journey she took here was far too long and could have been shortened to make the plot more interesting.
Of course, a long journey means that Alice has to have a trusty sidekick – and in this case, it is Ellery Finch. I know a lot of readers of this book love Ellery, but I did not. I couldn’t connect with him because he just seemed too forced in his behaviour and I didn’t feel like I ever got to know him. Maybe this was because the reader’s view of Ellery is coloured by Alice’s perception of him (since the story is told entirely from her perspective) but he just didn’t live up to my expectations of the sidekick.
And while I’m speaking about characters, I also didn’t like Alice for a large part of the story. All she does is get angry over nothing and complain. Oh, and judge Ellery for being rich, even though his wealth is what is aiding them in their search for Alice’s mother. Eventually, this anger issue gets resolved but it took way too long and was really not that necessary.
I know it sounds like everything I have to say is negative. But there were some things I really liked about this story.
There were moments when we got to actually hear some of the fairy tales from the Hinterland. That was hands-down the best part of the book; I love reading dark fairy tales and the author definitely delivered. I only wish there had been more of these stories scattered throughout the story because it would have made it all so much more interesting.
When Alice actually gets to the Hinterland, I found myself enjoying the story a lot more. There was some really cool world-building, and you really needed to focus in order to figure out what exactly was going on. The story started to get whimsical and creepy, and it was what I had been hoping for from the beginning.
By the time the novel ended, I was feeling quite happy …. but I don’t know if it was necessarily enough to negate my feelings from the beginning of the book.
Overall, I think that this was a novel with a very interesting premise. I liked the dark fairy tales and the creepiness of it all. I do think that this novel ran a bit too long, especially in the beginning and it would have been more enjoyable for readers if that had been cut down. I’m going to give this a 2.5/5 stars, rounded to 3 …. but I am curious to see if there will be a sequel to this novel, and would be interested in reading more by this author.