[eARC Review] The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Title: The Night Country
Author: Melissa Albert
Format: eBook
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 7, 2020

[Read | Skim] [Buy | Borrow]

Before I get into the review, I’d like to thank Flatiron Books for this eARC. I received it through Netgalley for free in return for providing an honest and unbiased opinion.

Two Sentence Summary: Ex-stories from the Hinterland end up in New York City and they are being targeted for dark and sinister purposes. Alice-three-times is trying to stay alive, find her purpose as an ex-story and Finch is trying to find his way back to Alice. 

What Popped: Not a lot. But the one and only character I liked was Sophie. She is an ex-story, brutally honest and a rebel (at least in our world).

What Fell Flat: There was quite a bit that fell flat for me, but the biggest thing was the issue with continuity. I found myself asking pretty regularly, “Okay. How’d we get here?” or “When did that happen?” or some such question.

My Thoughts: I’m always skeptical about sophomore books regardless of how good or bad the first one was. However, I did set the expectation bar a bit high on this. My fault. It wasn’t bad, but at the same time it missed the mark for me on so many levels. I thought maybe because I’m not the targeted demographic. I thought perhaps I should have refreshed my memory  by rereading The Hazel Wood. I even thought, that perhaps I wasn’t as smart as the average bear to get it. Welp, my darlings none of those thoughts were valid. Unfortunately, The Night Country just did not strike a cord with me. At all.

The Night Country picks up with Alice graduating from high school. The last thing I remember from The Hazel Wood was Alice riding a bicycle, in theory, out of the Hinterland. It’s never explained how Alice and Ella (Alice’s mother) reunite. In book 1 Ella is kidnapped, but I don’t remember there being any mention of why. I can only assume that it has something to do with Alice. In The Night Country there is some mention of some dude that kidnapped Ella, but . . . yeah, that’s it.

Do the characters seem real and believable?

LOL! When, I saw this question, I had to laugh. Let’s talk about this for a quick moment. The characters are ex-fairytales. Except for two, Alice’s mom and the bookstore owner. So, no, unfortunately the characters did not seem real and/or believable. I felt there was a deliberate attempt to keep them that way. They escaped the Hinterland to New York, which is another level of weird. I find it ironic that New Yorkers thought that these ex-stories were weird. They were not of this world, but they couldn’t get back to their world and many of them weren’t really coping.

Plot- or Character-Driven?

The Plot. I wish I could tell you what that really was about, but I can’t; so we’re just going to let that go. If I figure it out I may update this. But please don’t hold your breath.

There was definite Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibe going on when Alice was on the train. Someone attacked her and she got all ninja on them. I will have to say, for me, that was the best part of the book.

It was definitely character-driven. Most of the characters are static. However, we do see a change in Ellery Finch and a little in Alice.

And, I tell you, that damn Alice-three-times got on my last nerve. I didn’t particularly care for her in the first book, but I chalked that up to teenage angst. And, I didn’t like her in this book either. I had hopes that she would have grown up at least a little after her Hinterland experience, but nopity, nope, nope. She’s still stubborn. She doesn’t listen. It’s all woe is me. She’s still a brat. She’s still annoying as f**k. Now, I know this is Alice’s story, but I was really hoping she’d get killed or run away and Sophia would become our main protagonist. But we can’t have everything, can we?

Speaking of characters. In the first book, The Hazel Wood Ellery Finch was a character I really liked and was killed early on. I was pretty pissed at that, because I felt he was going to be the character that redeemed the book. In The Hazel Wood we did see a little more of Finch in the Hinterland, but not enough to even remotely flesh out his character. Albert brought Finch back in The Night Country. Yay. Not yay. Not yay one little bit. He was an ex-pat to the Hinterland and apparently taken in by some ladies (can’t remember their names). I thought for sure Finch’s story would be fleshed out some more. But nope. It was discovered that he’s been in love with Alice and somehow he’s able to get letters to her from the Hinterland to our world.

My favorite character in the Night Country is Sophia. She’s a firecracker, a bit odd (but all ex-stories are), no nonsense and if you don’t want your feelings hurt don’t ask because she’s going to tell you like it is or even if you don’t ask. I definitely wish I had more of her. A lot more.

How well did the author build the world in the book?

Alrighty then, here we go. The world was NOT built. So, The Night Country wasn’t actually brought up until Chapter 26 about 67% of the way through the eARC. In my humble opinion that’s pretty late. I kept wondering what is this so-called night country. I kept looking for clues as to what it was or it’s whereabouts, but alas nothing. Goose egg. Zilch. Zero. Zip. And, then Chapter 26 happens and we get one line to explain it all.

That world is called the Night Country, and in its fertile air children rebuild their kingdom as they please, simply by dreaming it up.

Well, I have to admit that’s pretty succinct. It’s mentioned a few more times, but . . .

Anyway, Ellery, Ellery Finch who is killed early on in The Hazel Wood and is an ex-pat of sorts in the Hinterland even tells his traveling companion he doesn’t get it. Now yes, this was another part in the book that I thought I was a bit dull or just don’t get the fairytale premise because I did not get this whole Night Country business either.  And the other times it was mentioned, I have to admit that I didn’t particularly care what it was or where it was.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes and no.

Yes, if you’re into dark YA fantasy that has pseudo-fairytale characters. Otherwise you may want to take a hard pass. Borrow it from a friend or library.

Would I read anything else by Melissa Albert?

Absolutely, I think she has potential. For me this was not her shinning moment. I do think this story had potential, but the execution left a lot to be desired. And, I would love to see how she and her writing grows.