A dark fantasy sequel asks whether characters who flee their stories still have a chance for a happy ending.
Once upon a time she was Alice-Three-Times, a vengeful princess in a grim fairy-tale world. Now she’s just Alice, trying to be human in New York City even as her escape triggers a mass exodus from the Hinterland. Ellery Finch, the schoolmate who helped free her, is growing weary of his travels through alternate dimensions, finding his thoughts turning back to home—and Alice. Meanwhile, someone is murdering ex-Stories in a very Alice-ish way….This follow-up to the astonishing The Hazel Wood (2018) displays the same lush prose, dizzying imagination, and macabre sensibilities (along with the grisly body count). Evocative details limn exotic fairylands and gritty New York as equally magical. Personalities are more approachable: blonde, white Alice is less rage-fueled than filled with confusion, frustration, and longing; brown-skinned Finch has grown beyond his vacillating geekiness to courage and confidence. Alternating between Alice’s first-person narration and Finch’s third-person perspective, the twin plots don’t intersect until the surreal, shattering climax; but since the romantic yearning that drives both protagonists was scarcely hinted in the first book, it never becomes convincing here. Still, they make a formidable team.
Plot bobbles aside, a necessary read for Hinterland fans—and who isn’t? (Fantasy. 16-adult)