Melissa Albert’s book The Hazel Wood introduced readers to its protagonist hero Alice, as well as a mystical other-world called the Hinterland. Alice’s grandmother, Althea Proserpine, was said to have authored a notorious collection of dark and twisted short stories called Tales From the Hinterland. When that anthology was published in our world, its characters escaped from the pages into our reality.
This is that book. And these are their backstories.
The dozen fairy tales collected here are savage, angry, bitter and cruel. We read, for instance, of a young girl named Hansa who is the product of a seagoing man and a star. She must seek out her imprisoned mother and cut off her hand if she hopes to set her free. Another young woman must use her sister’s life blood to paint a doorway to a dark, empty dimension of freedom. Three sisters prick their fingers and shed their blood on a briar patch gravesite in exchange for dreams of their future husbands. A young girl named Ilsa, who can see Death, spends a night with him and learns his soul-harvesting ways. Another woman makes a bargain with a clockwork toymaker and sells him her unborn child. And another is shorn of her skin to make her a “better” and more obedient wife.
The stories tell of people’s lusts, illicit affairs and bottled rage, frustrations with being thought inadequate, fears of failing, and their hopelessness in the face of loss. And happy endings are rarely a part of the ever after here.