22 September, 2020

[Review] The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) and The Boy Who Didn't come Home (Hazel Wood #1.5) by Melissa Albert

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Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: The Hazel Wood
Release Date: 7 January, 2020
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Genre: Fantasy/Folklore/Fairy Tale retellings/action/adventure/romance
ISBN: 9781250246240
Edition: Audiobook (available in eBook and hardback)
Rating: ★★
Review Written: 9 July, 2020
Warnings: Death
Can you ever truly escape the Hazel Wood?

In the sequel to her New York Times bestselling, literary/commercial breakout, The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert dives back into the menacing, mesmerizing world that captivated readers of the first book. Follow Alice Proserpine and Ellery Finch as they come to learn that The Hazel Wood was just the beginning of worlds beyond, “a place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth, and the world as it appears false, and where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a good book” (The New York Times).

See more by Melissa Albert at her website.
We return to the Hazel Wood once again as we see Alice Proserpine attempting to fit in with society and with people who aren't ex-stories. It's a trying time for Alice, she doesn't really have the support group of any of the ex-stories due a new one having run her off from the support group months ago. Though she's graduated from High School, she's uncertain what to do with her life now that she's being dragged back into the world of ex-stories.

Mixing with the ex-stories isn't pleasing to Ella, her adoptive mother since she has sacrificed so much to rescue her the first time. But things are starting to change, and ex-stories are ending up dead. Without much prelude, Alice herself is attacked, but she isn't certain by what. When other ex-stories are found frozen to death however, suspicion shifts to Alice, the only ex-story with the power of ice. Desperate to solve the mystery so she can move on, Alice struggles to find a balance between the ex-story life and the one she's tried to build with Ella.

On the other-side of the fold, we see Ellery Finch as he travels through the Hinterland after his almost death. Nursed back to health by a story and set in the care of a woman from his own world, Ellery feels both disconnected and disconcerted as he watches the Hinterland fade more and more with each passing day. When a door opens up in the back of a pub, stories begin fleeing through it, though it's unclear if they actually make it anywhere that would be a good place to live. When Ellery meets up with a mysterious girl who delivers him through several worlds just to dump him back out at the Spinner's mercy when she's trying to create a new world (and kill off Earth).

Finch becomes the Spinner in this new world, trying to master it before the world consumes him or Earth. While he manages to trap the Spinner in this new world without completely destroying the world as we know it, the book leaves off at a weird spot, a cliffhanger between Alice and Ellery, a cliffhanger between Alice and Ella. Many of the ex-stories are dead and it's unclear if those still alive are aware of what transpired. One of the few things that was a saving grace was the inclusion of the novella The Boy Who Didn't Come Home at the end of the book.

The Boy Who Didn't Come Home follows Ellery Finch when he attempted to rescue Alice after his betrayal in The Hazel Wood. It follows him as he spies on the stories, and how he felt spotting Alice trapped in her tale. Though he makes attempts in the beginning, he becomes bolder the more times he watches her tale, trying to change little things before he makes the final attempt. Thankfully, we know he ends up rescuing her, but this novella was a good addition to see what was going on while Alice was trapped.

I'm keeping my eye on what comes next from Ms. Albert to see where the Hazel Wood goes from here.

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