Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

Since reading The Hazel Wood I’ve been curious about the fictional world of fairy tales that Albert teased and after many rumours Tales from the Hinterlands finally came into being. While I enjoyed this book of fairy tales and continue to love Albert’s imagination and deliciously dark stories I was expecting more from the book. Maybe it’s because even though I enjoyed The Hazel Wood series I was still disappointed by them and it was fated for me to be disappointed. Based on other reviews I’ve read I wonder if it was reading The Hazel Wood series in general that somehow made these stories less exciting. I don’t know how but there is truth to it, because I loved these stories but somehow I can feel I would have enjoyed them without the connection to the series, and again I can’t explain why that is.

But Tales from the Hinterland is still well worth the wait and filled with stories of characters reader’s met in The Hazel Wood series as well as new stories and characters. It’s also beautifully illustrated, and a must have for lovers of fairy tales. Scroll down if you’d like a more detailed review of each of the stories.

The Door That Wasn’t There – 5 stars

Two sisters discover a hidden door that only opens with blood. Where does it lead? Is it safe? I enjoyed this story because it was most like a classic fairy tale, very grim and dark that by the end made you feel prickly all over.

Hansa the Traveler – 3.5 stars

Hansa is a beloved daughter of a ship’s captain who lives with her grandmother in a cottage not far from the sea. But every night Hansa’s grandmother shuts the curtains and locks the door. What is she stopping Hansa from seeing> I was excited to know more of Hansa’s story after meeting her in The Hazel Wood and The Night Country and while her story was definitely more detailed than I expected I found myself slightly disappointed. It just didn’t seem to flow as easily as a fairy tale should.

The Clockwork Bride – 4 stars

A poor young girl and her brother become entranced by a toy maker’s shop that appears in town that is shrouded in dark and terrifying rumours, but the clockwork toys that appear in the window of the shop are worth ignoring stories for. Or are they? I really enjoyed this story, I found Eleanor to be a very interesting character and loved how her story developed as well as the imagery of the clockwork creations of the toy maker.

Jenny and the Night Women – 3 stars

A farmer and his wife desperate for a child are willing to try anything after they’re prayers are ignored by the gods. So the wife eats a lovely pink and white petal and eats a lovely looking apple whole without realizing the rot hidden at it’s stem and core. They soon find themselves with their daughter Jenny, spoiled and slowly going rotten. What will Jenny do to get her way? The imagery in this story was lovely and I loved how rot was shown, but I was definitely confused by the Night Women. If anything I’d like a story explaining them more and their origins.

The Skinned Maiden – 5 stars

A prince spies a black bear, a white bear, and golden bear in the woods who remove their skins to reveal themselves as women. Obsessed with the golden one, the prince will do anything to claim her as his own. I’ve always enjoyed stories with myths and women and skins (the most well-known being selkies) so this was the perfect story for me. It was dark, felt like a traditional tale of this kind, and gruesome.

Alice-Three-Times – 3 stars

“When Alice was born her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn’t stay long enough to wash her.” Alice’s story isn’t so secret to reader’s of The Hazel Wood and The Night Country since she’s the protagonist of both and her story is a big part of the first book, but I was looking forward to finding out how Alice’s story ended. That being said I was disappointed, maybe because I expected too much of it or I already knew so much of Alice’s story from the previous books. I understand why it had to be included in the collection, it wouldn’t be Tales From The Hinterlands without Alice.

The House Under the Stairwell – 5 stars

A heartbroken woman spills her blood on a briar patch so that the Wicked Wife will give her a dream of her future husband, but not all dreams are good ones. This story fell more in the tradition of fae-folk and trickery, with underground world’s and dangerous princes. It’s also particularly gory but I loved the imagery of it and loved the underground world and the creatures that resided there.

Ilsa Waits – 3 stars

Ilsa’s family has been visited by death more than is fair, so much so that her village believes her to be cursed. But Death doesn’t just seem to follow Ilsa, she can also see him. Ilsa’s story was mentioned heavily in The Night Country so I was excited for the chance to read it, and while I enjoyed it it was nothing new from what we learned in that book. It’s haunting and aching, but if you’ve read The Night Country you already know how Ilsa’s story ends.

The Sea Cellar – 2.5 stars

After Alba’s sister becomes one of the many girls married off to a mysterious suitor in the house between the woods and the inland sea, Alba makes it her goal to do the same and discover what happened to her beloved sister and the other brides. This story is part Beauty and the Beast, part Labyrinth but still wholly original. It still lacked compared to the other stories though, despite the sea imagery which I loved so much. I did enjoy the descriptions of what happened to Alba when she gave something up, The Sea Cellar is nothing if not creative but it just doesn’t go far enough.

The Mother and the Dagger – 3 stars

Can you even call it a fairy tale collection if it doesn’t include a dark mother? A queen unable to have a child resorts to magic to get one, but when she resorts to trickery instead of sacrifice what kind of child will she get? This story is dark and shuddering but I wasn’t a fan of the second person framing device, though I can forgive it because it’s the only story in the collection written this way. I would have liked a little more description of the mother after, but it was still an enjoyable story.

Twice-Killed Katherine – 2 stars

Another story I was interested in since Katherine is introduced in The Hazel Wood but I found it disappointing. If anything too much happens in Katherine’s story to make it interesting and I just couldn’t find myself to care about what happened to her.

Death and the Woodwife – 2.5 stars

After a queen tragically loses her seven children she grieves and later ends up giving birth to a strange green-skinned girl. I thought this story was incredibly creative and was very interested in where it was going while reading, but the ending was such a let down that I couldn’t rate it any higher. This story was the most unique in the collection and then it just ends, this story easily could have been it’s own book.

tfthPublication: January 12th 2021
Publisher: ECW Press
Pages: 240 pages (eBook)
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Short Stories, Horror
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5

“Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice―and still lives.

One thought on “Book Review: Tales From The Hinterland by Melissa Albert

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