Goodreads: The Night Country
Series: The Hazel Wood #2
Published: January 7, 2020
In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.
With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…
I concluded my review of The Hazel Wood by nothing that I didn’t really want a sequel because everything felt nicely wrapped up, and reading The Night Country confirmed that opinion for me. While parts of The Night Country are interesting, the pacing makes it a bit of a slog to get through, and neither the plot nor Alice’s personal journey/characterization seem to add much to the story that came before. The book is fine, but I could have done without reading it at all.
Some fault for my indifference to The Night Country might be my own: I did not vividly remember the events from The Hazel Wood, and instead of reading a summary of the previous novel, I just kept going through The Night Country, hoping events would be illuminated. Some of it came back to me, very, very slowly, but overall this is not one of those books that are good at reminding readers of previous events. If you don’t remember The Hazel Wood well either, I’d suggest fixing that before picking up The Night Country.
However, I do think the novel’s biggest flaw is its pacing, which is somewhat tied to its inability to connect events to The Hazel Wood. Probably about 75% of the book features Alice wandering around Manhattan feeling vaguely lost, wondering how to be human or Story or both. There could be material here for a compelling narrative focused on introspection and belonging, but mostly I simply felt that nothing was happening, and I wasn’t sure how anything Alice was doing was really going to tie into a larger plot about the “Night Country” itself. The chapters featuring Ellery Finch definitely have more going for them plot-wise, but in his case, I felt as though there was a lack of characterization. After two books…I don’t even really know how I would describe Finch or what his main interests and motivations are.
The end of the book, alternatively, where the “Night Country” bit finally comes into play, feels rushed. It’s over almost as soon as it begins, and then Albert needs to spend some time wrapping up the book in general. While the Hinterlands were vivid and well-defined in the previous novel, the Night Country feels a bit like an afterthought.
The integrated dark fairy tales are still on point and highly creative, however, so if that’s an aspect from The Hazel Wood you enjoyed, you’ll definitely get some here.
My main reaction to this book is indifference. It was a bit confusing and not well-paced, but overall I just…have no investment. I think I would check out more of Albert’s work if she wrote something totally different, especially because I do like both her prose and her imagination, but The Night Country fell so flat for me that I am done with anything related to the Hinterlands.