The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where grandmother’s tales began — and where she might out how her own story went so wrong.

The Hazel Wood is a weirdly sad story. It’s not unhappy but it doesn’t end the way you want it to at all and there’s an unsatisfying feeling that the back cover leaves behind.

The characters are fine but a little underdeveloped. There’s a lot that could be done with them and it just feels sort of half-baked. The most evolved character in my opinion is Ella, the mother, and the only character that’s not self-obsessed or superficial. Of course, that’s probably because the other characters are teenagers or clinically insane or both.

The story itself is great though and Albert’s writing style builds a bridge between the worlds of fairy princesses and f-ckboys. I really enjoyed the inter-placed tales and the twisting and turning plot even though it didn’t end up where I wanted it to (fingers crossed, Albert plays the long game!). It reminds of Once Upon a Time but new and somehow much, much darker fairy tales.

I’m pretty sure it’s Albert’s debut novel which, to me, means that she’s still feeling out a different style and medium of writing. I like the foundations of the book and all the parts that matter most are there: great style, creative plot, etc. I have a feeling that The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) is going to be an improvement and despite not being overly-awed by The Hazel Wood, I’m very excited to pick up its sequel.


Photo and synopsis from barnesandnoble.com

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