Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pages: 240

Series: The Hazel Wood, Companion

Genres: Fantasy; Young Adult; Fiction; Horror; Fairy tales; Short Stories

Publication date: January 12, 2021


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.


There was once a rich merchant who lived at the edge of the woods, in a tiny town in the Hinterland. Though he spent most of his days traveling, he was at home long enough to give his wife two daughters, the eldest dark and the youngest golden, born one year apart.

Their father was distant and their mother was strange, often shutting herself up in her room for hours. Her daughters could hear her speaking to someone when they pressed their ears to the door, but only the eldest, Anya, ever made out an answer. The voice she heard was so thin and rustling, she could almost believe it was leaves against the window.

On a winter’s day when Anya was sixteen, their mother locked her door and did not open it again. After three days the servants broke it down, and found – an empty room. The windows were shit, winter howled outside, and the woman was gone. But she’d left something behind: on the floor, in a puddle of blood, a bone dagger.

The Door That Wasn’t There


First, can we all just appreciate how gorgeous this book is? And I’m not just talking about the front cover of this beauty. If you flip through the book, you’ll be greeted with gorgeous illustrations on virtually every page. I’d highly recommend getting your hands on a physical copy of this book if you can manage it, if only to flip through and see the detail that was put into it. This is certainly one of the pretties books I’ve ever read, and I’m thrilled to have its beauty in my collection.

The beauty of this book plays in stark contrast to the darker stories held within its pages. We get beautiful boarders that tie into each story. We get beautifully creepy cover images for each tale. The imagery ties in perfectly with the contents of each story and gives the stories more weight, more depth. They enhance the reading experience. At least, they did for me.

While I’m not going to say pick this book up solely for how gorgeous it is, its looks don’t hurt. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case please do. If you find this cover page just as beautiful as I do, go pick up a copy for yourself. Go enjoy the other detailed images the books has to offer.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the contents of this book. As a collection of horror fairy tales, I like what Albert did here. The argument has been made that each story follows the same formula – a female protagonist being oppressed, mostly by males, and rising out on top – but I’d like to counter argue that most fairy tales I’ve read follow a similar (if not the same) formula.

We can see this even if we just look at the fairy tales that Disney has made mainstream – Cinderella, Beauty and the Best, Pocahontas (please take this one with a grain of salt. I’m not saying Pocahontas is based off a fantastical tale or that the truth isn’t more gruesome than most people would believe), Snow White, The Little Mermaid… the list goes on. Girl is beaten down by society/those in power, girl has to overcome obstacles, girl ends up on top.

Some people don’t like the predictability of a formula. I do. I like knowing what to expect from a fairy tale, and that explains why I read so many retellings of tales I love. It’s the how that gets me hooked. How is the protagonist going to get from point A to point B? How do they overcome the obstacles in their way? How far are they willing to go to do it?

That being said, the fact that this collection of tales is predictable makes it the perfect pallet cleanser to read between other reads. And by that I mean this: read a tale between your other adventures. If you don’t want to read this book of fairy tales in one sitting, don’t. Spread the stories out, enjoy being able to jump in and out of this twisted world.

That’s how I read this book, and that’s probably part of why I loved it so much. I didn’t sit down and read one story after the other. I didn’t reread the same plot progression back to back. Slip it in between your other reads. Maybe you want a creepy story after a romance novel, maybe you want something ghoulish before you pick up your next urban fantasy read. These stories are short and easily digestible. In my opinion, that makes them perfect pockets of creepiness.

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