This is a dual review of THE HAZEL WOOD and THE NIGHT COUNTRY. THE HAZEL WOOD is about Alice Proserpine, whose grandmother, Althea Proserpine, wrote a book of dark fairytales that gained cult status. When Alice’s mother goes missing, her only clue is a warning not to go to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s estate. As Alice searches for her mother with a fan of her grandmother’s book, Ellery Finch, she finds that her grandmother’s fairytales might not be just stories after all. THE NIGHT COUNTRY follows the same characters from the first book in the same world.
things i liked
- Dark fairytales. I LOVED all the fairytales interspersed into both books. Sometimes I don’t like interludes with characters’ writing in books, but Melissa Albert totally killed all the fairytales in both THE HAZEL WOOD and THE NIGHT COUNTRY and made them all really add to both stories. I can’t wait for the book of Hinterland fairytales to come out that she’s apparently writing at some point.
- Alice’s voice. I loved how dark and angry Alice was in the first book. She’s definitely a tough nut to crack, but I always end up liking typically “unlikeable” female characters because usually it just means they have some grit. Alice has a LOT of grit and has a really hard exterior. I really liked all the descriptions of her anger and how it felt and all of the ways Ella taught her to calm herself down.
- The character cameos in book 2. I was so here for all the characters who appeared in THE HAZEL WOOD appearing in THE NIGHT COUNTRY. I especially liked the continuation of Sophia Snow’s character in the story after the end of THE HAZEL WOOD. I’m really glad I reread THE HAZEL WOOD, because I definitely forgot about Sophia Snow’s entrance at the very end.
- Alice & Ella’s relationship in book 1. I thought Alice’s relationship with her mom was so well-written in THE HAZEL WOOD. It was so clear how each depended on the other but also how complex their relationship was because of the way they had to live to survive.
- The unfolding of Alice’s memories. Another aspect of THE HAZEL WOOD that I felt was particularly well done was how Alice’s memories made more and more sense to her as she learned more about the Hinterland and the stories that her grandmother had written. Everything was revealed at the perfect pace in the perfect way, and it just really worked.
what i didn’t like
- Alice & Finch’s relationship in book 2. Honestly, I kind of felt like THE NIGHT COUNTRY was written just to satisfy people who wanted Alice and Finch to get together in book 1. I didn’t feel their chemistry was explored enough for them to be an end game couple even though I shipped them. I personally would’ve rather there hadn’t been a second book, or that Finch hadn’t been part of it at all.
- The narration style of book 2. I cannot tell you how much I DESPISE when books are written with one narrator in first person and the other in third. I ended up skimming most of Finch’s chapters because I hate that style so much. I personally find it jarring and I’ve never read a version where it’s done well. I think it would’ve made much more sense for Finch’s chapters to actually be written from his perspective. There was just no reason for his chapters not to be in first person.
- Alice’s voice. There was a major shift in Alice’s voice and the tone of her perspective in THE NIGHT COUNTRY that I didn’t like. I found Alice kind of boring and predictable in the way she was trying so hard to be normal. I would have rather her fight with the ice in her to be more nuanced and for her to want to keep that part of herself more. Her voice just felt a whole lot softer than in the first book, and the fire in her in the first book that kept her going after Ella into the Hinterland was just kind of gone and that was a disappointing character change.
- Honestly the whole second book. The more and more I think about it, the more I dislike THE NIGHT COUNTRY and feel it wasn’t necessary. I thought THE HAZEL WOOD had a good ending that made sense for the story, and didn’t really need to be continued. I felt the second book was written solely to make the romance happen, and it didn’t need to be there for the story to be good or feel complete. I would really like to forget the second book happened at all and pretend this is not a series.