At the end of The Hazel Wood, Alice Crewe had escaped the bonds of her story, sacrificed much, and was able to look at a brave new future for herself. Melissa Albert’s follow up, The Night Country, shows us what happens in the fallout. When Alice broke out of her story, the rest of the world of Stories started to unravel. Now, the Hinterland is gone and the ex-Stories are now refugees in New York. Most of them are not happy about this. Without their stories to guide them, what do they all do with themselves now?
Alice is, understandably, in a bit of a funk at the beginning of The Night Country. While she has a job and a home with her mother, Alice misses Ellery Finch and the magic of life in the Hinterland. I think she might have eventually gotten out of this funk if it hadn’t been for the sinister Daphne and the murders. Daphne, an ex-Story, warns Alice away from her informal Hinterland support group. Then, months later, Daphne tells Alice that someone is killing ex-Stories with ice. Alice used to be known as Alice-Three-Times, who killed her murderous husband with a frozen kiss. Who else could the murderer be?
While Alice tries to clear her name and figure out who is hunting the Hinterland refugees, a clearly-not-dead Ellery Finch is trying to find his way back to Alice through a series of other worlds. I was enchanted by the places that Ellery visits; I really wanted to know more about the stories he brushes against. Albert has an astonishing and beautiful imagination and I just wanted more of it. But I understand that The Night Country had other things it had to accomplish other than being a tour of worlds and stories. (That said, I need more of these worlds, please, Ms. Albert!)
Once all of the plots get traction—Alice wrestling with a serial murderer and her own conflicted nature, Ellery trying to get home, who the hell is Daphne and what does he want—The Night Country starts to race. I couldn’t put the book down for the last third or so because of all the harrowing twists and turns. This is a fantastic sequel to The Hazel Wood. I would absolutely recommend this book to fans of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Wayward Children series, and other books in which characters tumble into a new, dangerous world and have to decide where (and who) home is.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.