Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
Back in 2018 when I read The Hazel Wood, the novel was all the rage. I remember wondering if there was something wrong with me for not loving it as much as many others did—as I tend to wonder whenever a hyped up book falls short with me. But it was simply missing its spark, and while I enjoyed it as it was, it didn't hold the magic that should have been brimming in it. Especially for a story such as it is.
All of that changed in The Night Country.
One of the things I did enjoy in The Hazel Wood, and which continued throughout The Night Country, are the fairy tales that Melissa Albert spins. Stories within stories that not only take you away but that build up and shape a new world. That darkness that one can imagine clinging to a character such as Alice Three-Times, to the Spinner, to Sophia, stood out wonderfully in this novel and gave it an ambiance that was a pleasure to explore and love. One that I had previously hoped for.
There was a beginning, a middle, and an ending with this second installment that I did not come across in The Hazel Wood. And while I continue to compare the two, I can't help it. They're both part of a whole story, and the story has grown and developed nicely. There is no rushing events, they're very well explored. Finch's delving into the Night Country at the end and attaining the role of Spinner was wonderfully detailed. The fight for survival and the choices that were made came at an ideal pace. Alice's struggle to find who the murderer is of Stories and bring it all to an end is so nicely explored. The reveal of the culprit—while not surprising—is still satisfying to behold. And the little kernel that the (original) Spinner leaves in Alice concerning the third, smaller version of herself is tantalizing.
No part of this installment was filler, unnecessary. It brimmed with colorful characters and a dreary stirring deep in the gut that was very à propos to the type of tale that was being weaved.
One of the things, however, that I would have liked to see is further interaction between the Stories, and something that was also done in swift passing in The Hazel Wood. It's there, we get snippets, and it is fascinating to behold in the party that Sophia last invites Alice to. But even then, it's fleeting. And while seeing the Hinterland wreak havoc among humans is morbidly entertaining, their interactions with one another happen behind-the-scenes, but not often before us. We can see them in the same room, we know that they live together and hang out together, but we don't know what happens behind those closed doors.
I suppose that these are another set of doors which may stay closed to us for good, or that might be opened in the next book. Whatever the case, the mysteries behind them continue to sweetly torment.