The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books on January 30, 2018
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 359 pages Source: OwlCrate
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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 her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
The Hazel Wood has quickly built itself a reputation as one of those books you either ADORE or are really disappointed in. I’ve heard some folks call it an Alice in Wonderland retelling (disagree) while other complain that too much of the book is set in the real world.
I really liked it, and I’d like to break down for you why I did.
First of all, I’m not going to go out and say that Alice, or Finch, or Ella, or any of them were great characters. I’m usually a character reader, but when a world has been built as well as in The Hazel Wood, I’m lost to it. I’ve always been fascinated by fairytales. “Tales of the Hinterland” reeks of Grimm-style magic and misery, it its own twisted manner. Like most fairytale enthusiasts, I’ll tell you that the Disney versions are petted and puffed into such fluffy stories that they’re only shadows of the original. “Hinterland” plays upon that idea – the real dark fairytales – while throwing love to fantasy favorites like Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
I was taken in the moment Twice-Killed Katherine walked down the street.
It’s one of those moments you see it slow motion. The sky dims, the world spins, and you hear the clip-clop of high heeled boots on the asphalt. You hear the screech of her canary, a blood-curdling scream, then darkness again.
I’m an absolute lost cause for books were fantasy and reality start to blend. Inkheart is another guilty pleasure just like this one. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Give me a world where the storybook walks off the page, and I am your sincerely for all time. That’s where The Hazel Wood had me. In the dark fairytales.
The story does, admittedly, spend a lot of time in New York. I loved those parts because of the way the worlds started to bleed together. I wanted so much more of that interim. But I can sympathise with those who rode into this rodeo expecting a dark fantasy in the way much of YA runs these days – a la Leigh Bardugo and V.E. Schwab. This is not quite the same sort of dark fantasy… but if you like fairytales, it’s just as delicious.
The book delivered for me more than I expected, but it still wasn’t perfect. The very beginning of the book dragged, and I didn’t much care for any of the characters. The plot was predictable. But for this fantasy world? I’m in for book two.
The Hazel Wood stays on the shelf!
This is the sort of world I would like to visit again, doubly so once more books have been released. I get a feeling that there are Hinterland references buried in the text that I won’t get until I’ve read on further. People who aren’t really people at all. Stuff like that. I feel like there are layers that would benefit from a good re-read.
Beyond that, I really like this edition. I have the OwlCrate exclusive edition, which came in a forest green. At first, I thought it looked weird, but now that I’ve read the book I get the significance of the color choice and I love it.