The Night Country: The Hazel Wood, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Night Country: The Hazel Wood, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Tough teen battles dark magic in inventive fantasy sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Raises interesting questions about the meanings of folklore and mythology.

Positive Messages

People can use storytelling to help themselves through difficult times. Parents and children may be estranged for a time, but they can find ways to reconnect. Stories are powerful and reveal hidden truths.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Having escaped from disappearing Hinterland, Alice is distrustful of people, highly protective of her mother. She can be sarcastic, harsh, but she's loyal to her friends and family. She learns to trust herself and others more as story progresses. She opens herself to a romantic relationship with Ellery Finch.

Violence

The Night Country opens with a bloody attack on Alice that nearly kills her. Someone is magically freezing victims and chopping off their limbs or stealing organs. A main character is stabbed in a key confrontation.

Sex

Alice shares a passionate embrace with another character.

Language

Variations of "s--t," "f--k," "hell," and "damn," about a half-dozen times each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and older teens drink whiskey and cocktails in a couple of scenes. A peripheral character smells of marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Night Country is the sequel to The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert. The novel follows two refugees from the magical Hinterland back to their home worlds. Violent scenes include murder and mutilation. Sex is limited to a passionate embrace. Strong language includes variations of "s--t," "f--k," "hell," and "damn," half a dozen times each. Teens and adults drink alone or at parties.

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What's the story?

As THE NIGHT COUNTRY opens, Alice Proserpine is attacked on a subway by a mysterious assailant, one with connections to her former home, the magical Hinterland. She soon learns that other Hinterlanders are being killed and mutilated, and some suspect her of the crimes. Despite her wish to have nothing more to do with magic, Alice is drawn into an investigation of the killings. Meanwhile, her friend Ellery Finch is trying to get back to his and Alice's world, even as the Hinterland disappears behind him. Will they be able to find each other across time and space? And what will be left of the world when they do?

Is it any good?

Fairy tales aren't just for kids, and this dark, tough, and sometimes disturbing urban fantasy addresses the truths they sometimes hide. Author Melissa Albert structures The Night Country more like a whodunit than The Hazel Wood, and the central mystery is loaded with suspense and foreboding. The chapters recounted from Ellery Finch's perspective are more sedate, but they build to a mystical and still satisfying conclusion. Readers truly need to have finished the first volume to appreciate everything that happens in The Night Country, so don't try to jump into the story without prep. At the end, the stage is set for further adventures, and fans of hard-edged fantasy will be primed for the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Night Country uses the conventions of fairy tales to tell a modern story. How does the novel use myth and folklore to power the narrative?

  • Alice feels very protective of her mother. How does it happen that children sometimes have to look after their parents? To whom should they turn for help?

  • Why is storytelling important? How can it help bridge differences between people?

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