Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 250
The novel centers on three females in different generations of a family. The 17-year-old granddaughter, Alice, is the protagonist, and the grandmother is a dim, mysterious figure. Beyond her name, the context and setting resemble Alice in Wonderland, with a fantasy-filled world here named Hinterland, created by Althea Prosperine, a writer who is Alice’s grandmother. Considering the impact of the Hinterland stories’ great success, Melissa Albert presents Alice wishing for distance from her grandmother’s fame. Alice does not know why her mother, Ella, wanted to keep her away from her grandmother, who lived a hermit-like existence on the Hazel Wood estate until she passed away.
A present-day mystery interrupts when Ella disappears, apparently kidnapped by monsters from Hinterland who have entered real life. With fact and fantasy abruptly intermingled, Alice must both search for her mother and unravel the older mysteries of her grandmother’s writing. Ignoring her mother’s warning to avoid the Hazel Wood, Alice and Ellery, a classmate who befriends her, embark on their quest into Hinterland.
At every turn, the truth gets tantalizingly close and then eludes her, as she realizes she is deeply involved in, not peripheral to, the story: Hinterland’s creatures are pursuing her as well, Ellery was enticed to take her there, and somebody wants her dead. Although not in a steady progression, Alice gains strength; she learns from a guide named Janet that she herself is an important story teller with the power to change how the story ends.
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