The Night Country (The Hazel Wood #2) blurb:
Alice has fought hard for a normal life. Having escaped the Hinterland – the strange, pitch-dark fairy-tale world she was born into – she has washed up in New York City, determined to build a new future for herself.
But when her fellow survivors start being brutally murdered, Alice must face the fact that the Hinterland cannot be so easily escaped, and that, from the shadows of her past, something – or someone – is coming for her…
Review of book 1: The Hazel Wood
As you might have noticed, this book took me a stupidly long time to read. I don’t know why – everything was fine when I was reading it, it was interesting and I really enjoyed some parts. But every time I put it down, I got distracted by newer, shinier books. It wasn’t until I forced myself to sit down and read it, that I actually managed to finish it.
However, I don’t think the forcing myself to read it affected my rating or enjoyment. It just wasn’t the book that I wanted.
Quick reminder: 3 stars isn’t bad – I still liked this book. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.
Finch’s storyline in this was my favourite part, right up until the end. I really enjoyed his parts of the story where he travels through the many worlds found within books. I loved the idea of it, and the execution, although I would have liked more of this. If Albert ever writes a book about Finch’s adventures, I am totally there for that. In particular I really liked when he went kind of klepto and started pinching things he didn’t know the value of from each of the places he went, and then the whole scene at the shop where the old lady explains what each of the items does. I want that pen, it’s so cool.
“Jesus,” Finch breathed. “Are all these books doors?”
“A book is always a door.”
The atmosphere in this, just as in The Hazel Wood, was great. I loved the descriptions of the world, and the world building itself. But there was also this fantastic level of creepiness and intrigue, in both Alice and Finch’s stories, that made reading this so good. But not scary creepy (because we all know I cannot handle scary), just undercurrent creepy.
I’m not sure how to say this, except very bluntly, but I didn’t really care for Alice. I don’t think she had any character growth in this at all. She was there and she wanted things and she did things, but she didn’t learn anything. I felt there wasn’t any real substance to her character, which was strange because the book tried to show you HOW she was different to the other Hinterland characters who were very two-dimensional by design. To me the only way she was different was because she had different experiences, but she didn’t really lean on those at any point. So she ended up becoming the same as the others.
The ending felt rushed and made it feel off-kilter to the start, which was so slow. I think if the book had spent less time with Alice at the start roaming around New York and living two half lives (one with her ‘mother’ and the other with the Hinterland characters), it wouldn’t have felt so slow. Then we might have had more time with Finch on his adventures, which brings me to a sub-point here (stay with me, I’ll back get to the rushed part again soon).
In The Hazel Wood, we knew what the Hazel Wood was from the start. In The Night Country, you learn what it is right near the end, and there’s so much other stuff happening that I was like “oh, so that’s why the book is called this, but crap!” and then I got distracted by other big plot reveals. I wish there had been an earlier explanation of this. Like, if we had Finch’s timeline brought forward in the story instead of leaving it until Part II.
Going back to the ending, so much happened so quickly – and maybe it was me – but I kind of lost sight of what was happening because it happened so fast. One of the deaths happened, then a mystery was solved, then people turned up in the middle of another reveal, then shit went down, and then it ENDED. All in the last 50 pages. It was too much at once.
As I said at the start, I didn’t dislike the book. The concept was interesting, the story had some good plot points, and I loved the atmosphere. It kind of just fell apart in its execution. Maybe if the book had a different editor it would have turned out differently?
Regardless, Albert is expected to publish Tales From the Hinterland in January 2021, which as I’ve said before, I am excitedly anticipating. The taste we got of those in The Hazel Wood was brilliant, but I’ll be honest: if Alice Three Times isn’t in that book I might be very cranky.
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for proving me a free copy of this book to review.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.