Title: Tales From the Hinterland
Writer: Melissa Albert
Publishing House: Flatiron Books
Date of Publication: January 12th 2021
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Tales are told of a village so plagued by ghosts that bells are hung over the doors, to keep them from slipping in at night. In certain houses the cooks bake three loaves of bread, two to eat and one to bury. In some towns you would as soon slit your own throat as wear red in winter or yellow on a wedding day. And even kings must bow low when they see a dead man walking, lest the departed take offense and take hold of their hand.’’
Hinterland. A land of magic, darkness, violence. A land for Death. A land where justice is slowly but surely on its way. No matter how cruel, how terrible a character may be, retribution and justified punishment will come. In their most terrible form and rightly so. And Death is there, so much more than a character. He is a tangible presence, of flesh and blood. Watchful and unshakable.
Step into the darkness of an extraordinary collection…
‘’And it told her how she could save herself and her sister. How she could remake the world just enough so they would live. It would take blood.’’
The Door that Wasn’t There: Two sisters trapped in a household without love. What if the only way out leads to an unbearable darkness? What if revenge at an unthinkable cost?
‘’There was a girl who spoke to the moon. That isn’t enough to make a tale, but to her the moon spoke back.’’
Hansa the Traveller: A tale of the Moon, the stars, the sea and the rim of the world.
‘’The toymaker arrived in town on the back of rumours so vicious they cut the tongue.’’
The Clockwork Bride: A child’s dream night in a toy shop comes at a great price. When the child becomes a mother, the reckoning will come for her eldest daughter. But the young woman refuses to become a victim. An exciting tale of womanhood and independence, set in a land of magic and secrets.
‘’In spring, the wife swallowed the pink-and-white petals of an apple blossom. So eager was she to do it, she didn’t see the creep of brown at the flower’s centre. It had half rotted with rain.’’
Jenny and the Night Women: A mother gives birth to a beautiful girl but her beauty is no match for the cruelty of her heart and the coldness of her soul. The daughter is unsatisfied, she wants to punish her parents and the Night Women are there to fulfil her wish. A dark, powerful tale.
‘’So quickly she learned to mute the bellows of her lungs, the ticking of her naked heart. When she found him like this he did not like to look at her, because if he did she would repeat the only words she had spoken since he took her from the woods. ‘’Give me back my skin.’’
The Skinned Maiden: A prince’s obsession leads to destruction and the certain revenge of the maiden he tricked and violated. A violent tale of madness and punishment.
‘’The dark dreams that stalked the court, the unexplained deaths of the stable’s best horses, the hysteria that overtook the servants like a plague, coming and going in a fortnight. Spoiled milk, bad weather. The obsession of the king.’’
Alice-Three-Times: A queen gives birth to a feral child that grows fast. The daughter’s presence plagues the castle, her family, the society that has exiled her since she was an infant. And the mother is no mather at all. A tragic tale of vengeance, despair and justice.
‘’You wish to hear of your husband?’’ Her voice made a cold music. The shush of wind in bare branches, the tapping of a dead girl’s wedding shoes.’’
The House Under the Stairwell: Three sisters offer a drop of blood to see the face of their future husband. But Isabel is not so fortunate for a cruel fate is reserved for her. A union with Death. This wonderfully haunting tale makes use of classic motifs such as the pact with Death, the doomed bride, the dead witnesses, the trials that must be overcome.
‘’Do you think I can be killed? Do you think yourself the match of me?’’
Ilsa Waits: A girl’s village is plagued by Death. Ilsa loses each member of her family one after another. She decides to face Death and he invites her to a journey in the realm of the dead. Ilsa survives but the price is too high. Possibly my favourite story in this incredible collection.
The Sea Cellar: Young women are wed to a mysterious suitor, victims of their parents’ greed. When Alba decides to put an end to it by offering herself, she discovers the enchanting yet terrible truth. A tale that reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s stories, a tale of the sea and the wind and the call of the sirens.
‘’I am mother and murderer’’, the voice whispered. ‘’I am womb and crypt. I am a road and I am the end of it.’’
The Mother and the Dagger: A queen who has been raised in a land of dark magic longs for a child. When she tries to deceive an old witch, she becomes a shadow in the woods. She becomes the Mother…
Twice-Killed Katherine: A young woman, the offspring of a powerful enchanter, escapes Death. But she cannot escape a route of loses. Twice-killed and still alive…
‘’I am the quiet’’, he told her. ‘’I am the cold. I am the thing that comes after the end.’’
Death and the Woodwife: A queen loses her seven children and gives birth to a daughter with green skin before she follows them to the grave. The princess is chosen by a strange suitor, the son of the greatest enemy. Who can trick Death and his kin?
I have read so many collections of dark fairy tales it would take weeks to remember them all. This one must be the finest.
‘’I am my own,’’ she said. ‘’I belong to me.’’