“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
You know those Disney princess fairytales, the ones where the damsel in distress is saved by Prince Charming and they get married and live happily ever after? Yeah, this isn’t that story. Think of the old school Brother’s Grimm fairytales, and then imagine something even darker and you’ll have a clear picture of what this book holds for you. That’s not a criticism; one of the surest ways to get me to commit to reading a book is to tell me it’s an old school fairytale. I am a hardcore sucker for these wicked little snippets into an alternate world, and this debut felt like it was written by a seasoned pro with all the bells and whistles you could ask for.
When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn’t stay long enough to wash her.
We’re dropped into the story about midway; the first few chapters are meant to give us some background on Alice, her mother Ella, and her grandmother Althea Prosperine, who became famous by writing a book of fairytales. This book was titled Tales From The Hinterland and it contained a total of twelve brief stories. The cool part about The Hazel Wood is that we get to read a couple of these first hand within the story (Three Times Alice and The Door That Wasn’t There), while also getting brief snippets from most of the rest of them toward the end. This aspect was so unique and compelling that I felt a little breathless at the end. I wanted every story verbatim! I feel like, if the author so chose, she could write Tales From The Hinterland, binding and fully fleshing out all twelve stories in a volume to sell as a companion novel and we the people would EAT. IT. UP. Seriously, please please pretty please?
So Alice remembers being kidnapped at the age of six by a strange man with red hair claiming to take her to visit her recluse of a grandmother, but she was never harmed and never laid eyes on Althea. Strange things begin to happen, such as Alice spotting the mysterious redheaded man a decade after her last sighting of him, her mother and herself receiving a letter stating Althea has passed away, and finally, Ella disappearing under very strange circumstances. Alice has no one to turn to other than a recently made acquaintance named Ellery Finch, who is a mega super borderline stalker fan of Althea’s work. His money and affluent nature allow them to forge a shaky bond and they decide to set off on a journey to do the very thing Alice’s mother warned her not to do-visit the Hazel Wood. Name of Althea Prosperine’s vast estate in upstate New York
I hated needing something from someone when I had absolutely nothing to offer back. You’d think, after the upbringing I’d had, I’d at least be used to it.
I wouldn’t call Alice a likable character, but she was certainly a compelling lead. I felt just as befuddled as she did along this journey; I honestly had no clue where this story would take us and was just as shocked as Alice at every twist and turn. While there was no sexual content whatsoever in this book (at least that I remember), it still made me give pause to what age range this book would be most appropriate for. Certainly the older side of the spectrum, as this was disturbing, unsettling, and contained a good bit of graphic violence/horror within the stories. I was warned many times over about how truly dark this book is, but I didn’t think it was something I’d blink an eye at, not with all the graphic murder mystery/thrillers I read, but this was different. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly provoked this sense of unease I felt; perhaps it was the not so light way the story was wrapped up? There isn’t much levity to be found here; if you’re the type of reader looking for a happy ending you most certainly have come to the wrong place.
Originally I gave this book 4 stars, but I’ve decided to bump it up to a full 5, seeing as it’s been almost a full week since I finished it and I cannot stop thinking about it. This quirky little novel has been jostling other stories I am currently reading, vying for attention in my head and further pondering, so for that reason, I think I need to give credit where credit is due. This book certainly won’t be for everyone, but I think the fans of dark fairytales and things that go bump in the night will wholly appreciate the author’s ability to conjure up such a complex tale that was detailed and, quite frankly, brilliant. Highly recommended!
“And while they’re being told, stories create the energy that makes this world go. They keep our stars in place. They make our grass grow.”
You want to read a mysterious, crazily intriguing book, this is it. My heart was racing for the first 7 chapters because I had no idea what was going to happen and during the rest because I couldn’t wait to see where the Story was going (pun intended- if you’ve read it you’ll understand).
This is just so AMAZING. I don’t know how it possible to make something so interesting and addicting. I couldn’t stop even once, it’s crazy really, in the entire book not even one word was boring or out of place. I feel like I’m going to burst into hysterical laughter if I start talking about it because I can’t wait for the next book and I can’t accept the fact that the book is over. The whole thing was so well planned and the book did justice to the concept which was also great. The world itself is written very descriptively which helped picture the very fictional and fantastical world and characters. It was so much more interesting because nearly every other character had their own agenda and were playing their own angle.
In this world, Althea Proserpine was a famous writer who wrote the books Tales of Hinterland. This book is an enigma, there are no traces of it online and very few people have read it and those who have read it are borderline addicted to it and Althea, Once this book was published Althea Proserpine moved into an estate called The Hazel Wood and fans all over the world have tried to locate it with no avail. And just like that Althea Proserpine was never again seen on the face of the Earth and eventually the theories and rumours died down, but Althea’s daughter Ella moved out of The Hazel Wood when she was young and raised her daughter Alice away from anything related to Althea and her fairytales and forbade her from researching or reaching out to Althea.
But all her life Alice and her mother have been moving from place to place without ever settling down because if they ever stay in one place for too long bad luck just seems to follow them and bring a whole lot of destruction along with it. But a few years ago Alice got a letter informing her of Althea Proserpine’s death and at that moment onwards she built a stable life for herself and her daughter. But now Alice has been taken by someone who claims to be from Hinterland, the very world Althea based all her stories on, which now turns out to be real. And if the world is real so must be the stories.
The fairytales Althea wrote were not our average fairy tales with happy endings, they were gruesome tales generally with savage endings and characters who held no semblance of humanity. Now that Hinterland has proved to be real Alice will have to have navigate a world of the darkest stories in existence to rescue her mother, with the help of Finch who happens to be one of her grandmothers cultish superfans who remembers every story in the book.
This book grabbed my attention in the beginning and held it all the way to the end. The world within this world is one of the most interesting I have ever read. The concept of the Hinterland and the Hazel Wood was written with a lot of clarity which increases the pace of the book. Everything about this book dragged me in and the next book has a lot of intrigue to live up to. I rate this book 5 stars.
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