My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Children’s Publishers, UK for a review copy of this book.
I’d been noticing this book all over and found the cover very intriguing (though I didn’t know much about the story except that it had to do with fairy tales) so when I found it listed on NetGalley I put in a request. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Alice who with her mother Ella has been living a roving life―since she was a child, every few months, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, they must move, for bad luck finds them everywhere they go. But something changes and they make an attempt (albeit not a very good one) at setting down, but then Ella’s mother goes mysteriously missing. Realising that this has something to do with a book of rather dark fairy tales Tales from Hinterland, which her grandmother Althea Proserpine wrote many years ago, her only book which was somewhat successful but is not wrapped in mystery, Alice sets out to track her down. In the process she is helped by her classmate/friend(?) Ellery Finch who also happens to be a huge fan of the book, and practically knows it from cover to cover.
So to start off with, I must say I felt the tiniest bit of disappointment because somehow or other I was expecting this one to be in a historical/old-fashioned setting but it wasn’t but that wasn’t much of a bother once I actually started reading. I enjoyed the writing overall. The story is told from first person perspective, but to me Alice’s voice didn’t always come across as that of a seventeen-year-old, sometimes she seemed much older (though I wouldn’t say that about her actions/behaviour―that was very much a teen).
I really thought the author was very imaginative with the whole atmosphere she created and the plot itself as well. She weaves in references/tributes to known fairy tales but the ones she creates are very much her own and while much much darker I think than our more common ones, I found them interesting to read. Even outside of the fairy tales, when Alice and Ellery are tracking down her mother Ella, the atmosphere is dark, creepy (very creepy), and I found when I put down the book for the day, I wasn’t left feeling the most comfortable, so that certainly was a job well done. The plot again I enjoyed, it had me interested enough to want to keep reading on to find out how things turn out―what really happened to Ella, and what Alice and Ella’s connection is with the world in Hinterland. Some reviewers seem to have found the initial part of the book a little slow, but I didn’t think so. In fact, I thought it did its job well building up the anticipation and the excitement towards what the magic world would be like, what its secrets were, or whether indeed there really was one. I did think it dragged a bit at a point or two because I remember thinking why they still hadn’t got there. As far as the second part was concerned, while I found it interesting reading, to see how things played out, I wasn’t entirely grabbed by it, though the end was satisfying. The ‘mystery’ element in the plot or rather what the actual connection was between Alice, her mother, grandmother and the Hinterland world, I didn’t guess at all.
Alice herself I felt very neutral towards except at some points where she rather annoyed me. For instance, her constant digs at Ellery about being rich and privileged do get a bit much when it is clear and she is aware that his life is no less complex than hers, and while may be privileged in one way, is far from it in others. But why I didn’t really ‘like’ her I did want to find out how things would turn out for her. Ellery, though he wasn’t perfect, was someone I felt more sympathetic towards.
So overall, a pretty good read―there were many things that I really enjoyed about the book, but it wasn’t a five-star read for me.
I notice from the goodreads page that there is a sequel planned plus the Tales from Hinterland themselves, the latter I know I want to read―the sequel―I’m curious about that as well.