Audiobook Review: Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories

Series: The Hazel Wood

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (January 12, 2021)

Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Rebecca Soler

If you loved The Hazel Wood and The Night Country by Melissa Albert, Tales from the Hinterlands is not to be missed. Heck, even if you aren’t a fan of the series, you should give this one a chance. Filled with stories both wondrous and terrifying, this is not your typical book of fairy tales.

Those familiar with the main series will recognize this as the collection written by the protagonist’s grandmother Althea Prosperpine before she all but vanished from the public eye, even as her work gained ground in certain circles. As readers, we were able to experience snippets and pieces of these stories over the course of Alice’s adventures, but merely peripherally, often in a secondary context. Now, finally, we are able to read them in their entirety, and discover out what they’ve been all about. If you haven’t read the novels though, don’t despair! They are certainly not a prerequisite, and in fact, it might even be beneficial to read this collection first as it may provide you with the context to appreciate the novels even more.

Normally when I review short story collections, I break down each entry by providing a brief summary along with my comments. However, I will not be doing that this time, since it would not work as well. Much like the traditional fairy tales that inspired them, many of the stories in here are allegorical, going beyond the plot to probe deeper themes and messages. The Brothers Grimm influence is also strong with this one, both in the whimsy and darkness of the tales. Some of them are downright twisted and disturbing, pushing beyond the boundaries of fantasy and entering horror territory as they explore extreme and impossible situations.

While I will not go into detail into each story, I do have a few favorites. The opening tale, The Door that Wasn’t There was a nice introduction, setting the tone for the rest of the collection. Fairy tale fans will appreciate the familiar tropes—rich merchants and their daughters, stepmothers and blood curses—but the ending will also surprise you, a reminder that Albert has her own ideas and that she’s working towards a unique vision for The Hazel Wood series. Other favorites include Jenny and the Night Women, The Skinned Maiden, as well as Alice-Three-Times. I loved how the protagonists of these stories are not your helpless maidens, but neither are they always good, kind, or sweet. In fact, some of them are highly unlikeable, and you’d be hard pressed to sympathize with them at all.

I also want to note that I’m generally not a big reader of short stories or collections because I prefer more developed characters and plotlines, and the short format is usually too restrictive for that. Fairy tales, however, are an exception. As I alluded to before, many fairy tales are often about something bigger than just the plot at hand. A lot of times, their characters as well as the things they do or feel are also less intrinsic to the story and more about representing something about human nature. I definitely got this vibe with many of the stories in Tales from the Hinterland, and in many cases, the shorter they were, the more meaningful they actually felt, while the longer ones rambled and lost much of their impact. Don’t get me wrong; all the stories in this collection were fun to read, but there were a few meandering, ambiguous ones that failed to hold my attention all the way, like Hansa the Traveler, Ilsa Waits, and even the much acclaimed Twice-Killed Katherine.

Still, the good stories were by far the majority. Save for a few mediocre entries, this was actually a very strong collection of fairy tales, one of the most impressive I’ve ever read. Be forewarned though, Tales from the Hinterlands is not for the faint of heart. Personally, I felt the overall tone was even darker and more mature than the novels, but that’s probably why I enjoyed it so much! Like I said, this collection can be read independently of the series, but mega-fans will probably want to seek out the print edition, as I hear the illustrations in it are gorgeous. I had the pleasure of reviewing the audio edition which had no visual component obviously, but I nevertheless had a great time listening to the fantastic narration by Rebecca Soler, whose talented voice acting made each story shine in its own way.

25 Comments on “Audiobook Review: Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert”

  1. This sounds very enticing indeed! I enjoyed Hazel Wood, and if this collection is darker and more mature, I might actually enjoy it even more 😀 Thanks for the rec, Mogsy!


  2. Great review!
    i was doubting about checking this one out since I loved The Hazelwood, but DNFed The Night Country.. But since they are short stories, I might have to check them out! Maybe even on audio!



  3. Darker fairy stories sound very interesting! Although I have not read the author’s previous books, this might be the way to sample her style and get an… introduction to her world. Marked for later…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  4. Awesome, you liked it! I was a bit worried, as I know you don’t really go for short stories. Great review, it answered most of my questions. But, not all; I’ve read #1, but not the second—should I read this first or save it til after, what d’you think?


    • I really feel the beauty of this one is that you can read it anytime, even before the main series! It gives you more context for the snippets of fairy tales you see in the books, so one might even argue the sooner you read it the better 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Is the overall writing style similar to that of the novels, or different to distinguish the stories from the narrative? I love how it’s a book from within a book. Great idea.


  6. I don’t think I ever read The Hazel Wood, for some reason. But I love the sound of this collection, especially since the stories lean towards “dark.”


  7. I don’t usually like collection of stories but you are right saying that Rebecca is a fantastic narrator!


  8. Oh, I keep meaning to read The Hazel Wood. I didn’t realize this one was a collection, that’s pretty neat. Glad you enjoyed it overall. I’ve found I really love short fiction in audio. Whenever I get through my current audio backlog I might give these a try.


  9. Thanks for this. I was debating reading this one since I read the first book but didn’t like it much. I did like the snippets of fairytales in it, which is why I’ve been looking forward to this book. I’ll def try it when I get my hands on a copy.


    • I think you will really enjoy this one then! It almost feels completely separate from the series, like had I not known it was supposed to be a book of fairy tales written by the protagonist’s grandmother. It really could be enjoyed as a standalone 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup: 01/23/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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