Tales from the Hinterland

Flatiron. (The Hazel Wood). Jan. 2021. 240p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250302724.
Gr 9 Up–Albert presents Althea Prosperine’s Tales from the Hinterland—the notorious collection of dark and twisted short stories that form the backbone of the world-building in The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country. For the first time, the stories that protagonists Alice and Ellery encounter in Albert’s previous novels are presented in their entirety. Readers familiar with the series will recognize many of the tales and characters here, notably Alice, Ilsa, and Hansa. Albert aptly channels classic fairy tale sensibilities into eerie and brutal tales that would have the Brothers Grimm reaching for an extra candle at night. Centering female characters in each story, Albert explores the facets of girl- and womanhood in a world dominated and usually shaped by men. Standouts in the collection include “The House Under the Stairwell,” where sisterhood wins the day as Isobel seeks help from the Wicked Wife before she is trapped in a deadly betrothal; “The Clockwork Bride,” a richly told story where a girl hungry for enchantment carelessly promises her first daughter to a sinister toymaker who, when he tries to claim his prize, instead finds a girl who wishes only to belong to herself; and “Death and the Woodwife,” where a princess uses her wits and her mother’s unusual gifts to outwit Death and his heir. Characters have various skin tones.
VERDICT Stories fueled by feminist rage, the frustration of being underestimated, and the insatiable longing to experience more mark this collection as timely and universal.

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