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Posts Tagged ‘The Hazel Wood’

If you like your fairy tales on the dark side, then don’t miss Melissa Albert’s beautifully creepy debut The Hazel Wood (Flatiron Books, digital galley).  Teenager Alice Proserpine and her mother Ella lead a nomadic life dogged by bad luck. But then Ella receives word that her estranged mother Althea, the reclusive author of a book of disturbing stories, Tales from the Hinterlands, has died and declares herself “free.” Not so fast. When Ella is kidnapped, Alice and her Althea-obsessed classmate Ellery, head for upstate New York and the one place Ella warned her against — Althea’s home, the Hazel Wood, birthplace of the mysterious Hinterlands. Albert intersperses Alice’s adventures with her grandmother’s thorny stories, adding to the magical, menacing atmosphere. Are the Hinterlands a real place? Do the stories we tell ourselves have a life of their own? Curiouser and curiouser, as another Alice might say. Into the woods we go.

In 2016’s Every Heart a Doorway, which scooped up awards right and left, Seanan McGuire introduced Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children for kids who return from the rabbit hole or the yellow brick road or the other side of the sun. They all have a hard time readjusting to life after fantasy, outsiders waiting for the day when their doorways will reopen and they can  go home to whatever magical world they belong. In the series’ enchanting third book, Beneath the Sugar Sky (TOR, library e-book), Cora, whose plumpness was an asset when she was a mermaid, is sitting by the pond when another girl falls from the sky with a splash. Rini is looking for her mother Sumi and is dismayed to learn of her death years before. In order to save herself from disappearing bit by bit,  Rini needs the help of Cora and several other misfits to resurrect Sumi and restore her to her rightful world of Confection. So off they go on a perilous quest, eventually ending up in the gingerbread castle of the ill-tempered Queen of Cakes. McGuire has a marvelous time envisioning the nonsense realm with its strawberry soda sea, graham cracker sands and candy corn fields, all under the guiding hand of the Baker. But her characters’ fears and longings feel real enough, and the atmosphere is bittersweet because not all dreams come true.

On his job application to teach history at a London school, youthful looking Tom Hazard admits to being 41.  Actually, he’s more than 400, having been blessed (or cursed) with a condition in which he ages incredibly slowly. Matt Haig’s  How to Stop Time (Viking, digital galley) is entertaining historical fiction with a time travel twist. In present-day London, Tom follows the rules of the secret Albatross Society, which is made up of other “Albas” who change their identities and locales every eight years and never, ever fall in love with “Mayflies,” mere mortals. Tom still mourns the loss of his wife centuries ago and is looking for his daughter, another Alba, as flashbacks tell of his past adventures: playing the lute for Shakespeare’s troupe; sailing with Captain Cook; drinking cocktails with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  Then a pretty French teacher claims to recognize Tom, and the head of the Albatross Society insists he recruit an old friend, and Tom finds himself at a crossroads. How is he going to live the rest of his life?

“Half science, half magic — entirely fantastic” reads the banner on the cover of The Philosopher’s Flight (Simon & Schuster, digital galley), an exuberant tale from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller. In his alternate history of the World War I era, Montana teenager Robert Weekes is that rare thing — a male practitioner of empirical philosophy, a complicated magical science dominated by strong, talented women. Working with his war hero mom, Robert proves talented enough at sigilry — managing the natural elements by signing — that he wins a scholarship to all-female Radcliffe College. There, he must prove himself again and again to his classmates and professors even as he dreams of joining a flying corps of military medics working in France. He also falls in love with political activist Danielle, who is helping defend empirical philosophers from violent attacks by  fervent conservatives known as Trenchers. It’s all wonderfully funny and complicated, although Robert’s “aw shucks” narration gets old. (His boyhood nickname is the embarrassing Boober). It also comes to a screeching halt before Robert can detail his wartime adventures, so here’s hoping there’s a follow-up.

Time-traveling librarian Irene Winters returns in The Lost Plot (Berkley/Penguin, digital galley), the fourth entry in Genevieve Cogman’s clever Invisible Library series. The search for rare books takes Irene and her handsome apprentice Kai to all sorts of worlds and times through the vast Library’s myriad portals. As a Library employee, Irene has to remain neutral in the ongoing political power struggle between the Fae and the Dragons, both of whom can assume human form. But Kai is a Dragon prince, and when his family needs help in a Jazz Age New York, he and Irene face two warring factions, mobsters, bootleggers and cops, once again putting their lives on the line for the not-always-understanding Library. Kogman again excels at atmosphere and action, and the slow-burn attraction between Irene and Kai flares anew.  In previous books, they’ve time-hopped to Victorian London, as well as alternate Russia and Venice, so no telling where they’ll wind up next.

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