Monday 18 July 2022

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Review: Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert (#Ad)

A proof of Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert open flat on a white sheet. Surrounding the book, from top left in a clockwise direction, are a raw rose quartz chunk, a red candle, a small gold bowl of cascarilla, a small corked jar with three sharks teeth inside, a light grey mortar and pestle with dried heather inside, asmall circular mirror, and an open small glass jar of apple seeds, with apple seeds scattered on the sheet from the opening, up along the left side of the book.

I was sent this proof for free by Penguin via Nina Douglas PR for the purposes of providing an honest review.

Links with an asterisk (*) are Ad: Affiliate Links, which means if you make a purchase through them, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Published: 30th June 2022 | Publisher: Penguin | Source: Publisher
Melissa Albert on Twitter

SECRETS. LIES. SUPER-BAD CHOICES. WITCHCRAFT. This is Our Crooked Hearts - a gripping mystery crossed with a pitch-dark fantasy from Melissa Albert, global bestselling author of The Hazel Wood.

In our family, we keep our magic close, but our secrets closer...

Ivy's summer starts with a series of disturbing events - unnatural offerings appear on her doorstep and she's haunted by fragmented memories from her childhood. Soon she grapples with a dark secret that she's always known - but never faced - that there is more to her mother Dana than meets the eye...

Dana's story starts the summer she turns sixteen, when with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, she embarks on a major fling with the supernatural. As the trio's aspirations darken, things soon take a more sinister turn.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana's shared story will come down to a reckoning among a mother, a daughter and the dark forces they never should've messed with.
From The StoryGraph.

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I had been really looking forward to Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert, it was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I adored Albert's The Hazel Wood Books, so I was so excited for her next story. But I was actually really disappointed.

The story is dual narrated by Ivy, a seventeen-year-old whose timeline is the present day, and her mother, Dana whose timeline starts 25 years ago, the summer she turned 16. Ivy's mother has always been strange and distant, but when Ivy was almost in a car accident when a naked teenage girl appeared in the headlights of her just-ex-boyfriend's car, and the dead body of a decapitated rabbit is left outside their house, she becomes more so. She's more closed off, she's reacting strangely, and she's up at night, burying a jar of blood and glass shards in their garden. And then she, and Fee, Ivy's aunt and Dana's best friend, become unreachable.

Dana and Fee have always been a little uncanny. Dana has an instinct, and intuition that allows her to know things; she knows about the bracelet down the drain, she knows exactly where her dad dropped his keys, and when to stay away from home. Fee knows when you need things, and what exactly it is you need. But it's not until they meet Marion that they discover true magic. But as the girls experiment with the spells of a long dead occultist, things turn dark, and out of their control.

The Hazel Wood series was amazing. I thought they were hugely imaginative and clever, and did some really interesting things with fairy tales and portal fantasies, so I had really high hopes for Our Crooked Hearts, but it just never got there. The writing is beautiful, and there were some fantastic moments of tension, and you could feel the story building to something amazing. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for my mind to be blown, but left thinking, "Is that it?"

Dana's narration was much more interesting, as there's a lot more happening. But it's told in retrospect, almost as if adult Dana is telling the reader her story of what happened when she was 16, and the fallout. As such, we're told more than we actually get to see. There's actually a lot less magic in this story than I expected. When they first started practicing, I was so excited, because it felt like the much more earthy witchcraft, the believable witchcraft practiced long ago by wise women and cunning folk. I was looking forward to their spells and their experiments... but we don't see them. Months the three practice together, but it's just spoken about over a matter of pages. There's only really one spell that matters to this story, and it's the consequences of that spell the story focuses on - because those consequences are far reaching.

Ivy's narration just didn't do it for me. Nothing really happens. There's a lot of her wondering what her mum is up to, why she's keeping secrets, oh my god, is she actually a witch? She thinks someone has been in their house. She finds hidden objects that are either confusing or that she has no idea why they would be hidden. And where has her mum gone?! Just a lot of questions, with very very few answers. I never really felt I got an understanding of who Ivy is as a person. In some ways, I suppose there's a reason for that, but surely we should know something about who she is and what she likes to do before things get weird, and to actually see her friends maybe. Her narration also only covers a few days, and there's a lot of nothing much until three quarters of the way in.

But the answers are... really disappointing. There's all this build up around the consequences of the spell that's cast, because Dana is telling us in retrospect; we know something big is coming and it is bad, but it was just such a let down! The antagonists, there was so much potential for more there, but it all felt like it came to nothing. The consequences that came about because of the initial consequences of the spell weren't actually that terrible. And when Ivy finally knows what's going on, there is so few pages left, everything happens so quickly, and it's just such an anti-climax.

I was just so incredibly disappointed by the whole story. It honestly feels like Our Crooked Hearts was written by a completely different author than who wrote The Hazelwood. The mystery, the twists, the antagonists, the imagination in those books exceeds Our Crooked Hearts by several miles. Maybe it's unfair to compare author's stories to their others, but I feel the context of having read those stories is important, because I know what Albert is capable of. I don't know what happened with Our Crooked Hearts, but it wasn't my bag at all.

Thank you to Penguin and Nina Douglas PR for the proof.

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