THE HAZEL WOOD
Written by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books, January 30, 2018
My star rating: 4.5 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
If you’ve been following the book community for the last 6 months or so, then I KNOW that you’ve heard of The Hazel Wood. This book has been everywhere. Now that we’re almost at the publication date, reviews are starting to come in – and they aren’t as high as I thought they would be. Here’s what I think is happening. The hype, and what people assumed this book would be about based on the synopsis, set their expectations to something that wasn’t realistic to what was actually inside the book. I myself was a victim of this. I went into it assuming that we would be in this fairy tale land right from the beginning. That didn’t happen right away. In the beginning this could best be described as a contemporary with magical elements – think Shadowhunters. Girl lives her life knowing something is off, her mother goes missing, and in her search she finds that there’s magic in her life. So yes it is a fantasy but not your typical fantasy. And if you go into this book knowing that, and if you can go into this book leaving your prior expectations behind you, then I think you will really love this book! So please find a way to set your expectations behind you and just go into it allowing yourself to experience this book for what it is and I bet you’ll love it!
So, like I said, in the beginning this book is a contemporary. Alice and her mother are on the run from bad luck. Every few months they will set down some roots, only to have something bad happen that causes them to pack up and move on. When they get word that Alice’s grandmother has passed away, they think their bad luck is over. But when Alice’s mother goes missing, she realizes that it’s worse than ever. Alice knows that everything is somehow tied to her grandmother and the book of dark fairy tales that she wrote called Tales of the Hinterland. Problem is, they’ve never met and she’s never read The Tales of Hinterland. She relies on the help of a fellow student/super fan who has actually read her grandmothers book to put together the clues to find her mother. I really liked that we were in the dark about the fairy tales. We were learning all about it along with Alice which made each and every discovery a surprise. We did get the story titles and a recount of a few of the tales which was great. I wish that we could have heard more of them but this will be a series so there’s still time for more.
The general atmosphere of this book was eerie! That’s the best way to describe it. At times it was creepy and at other times it was dark and scary. There were things that happened and people we met that just made my skin crawl! All throughout the book, even when were were in the present time and place, there was this electric and magical current hiding underneath of everything that constantly made your curiosity rise. It made everything feel so alive and more than the sum of its parts. You kept reading faster and faster to put it all together. And when we were transported to Hinterland it was just incredible! This world is so complex and enormous, spanning so much time and space. The descriptions were so vivid, making you feel like you were there with the characters, feeling the ice on your hands and listening to the trees talk.
The pace was a little slow, especially in the beginning. But it wasn’t the type of slow pace that bores you, it’s the kind of pace that allows the events to sit longer in your mind, giving you time to work it all out and allow the suspense and mystery to grow. The tiny details of their lives and connections are what made the story so compelling.
The only downfall for me was Alice as a character. In the beginning I found her to be quite annoying. She was always angry, jaded, judgemental and guarded. She had a constant chip on her shoulder and was always pointing things out that she didn’t like in other people. Finch, the student who was helping her, came from money. He was helpful without question yet every chance she got she brought up money with him. Once I finished the book I understood her character arc, her actions and her personality, but before I knew what I know now it was a little annoying. Even still, I don’t count my inability to connect with her a major fault.
I also liked that there was no romance in this book!! Yes, I said it, no romance!! There were a few hints of a spark between characters but it was only a quick mention and never mentioned again. It’s so rare to have a YA contemporary or fantasy that doesn’t include a romance!!
All in all, this was a very unique and refreshing story! A book filled with parallels that connected the real world with dark fairy tales. I loved just how dark and creepy this book was at times, and how it was able to fill me with so much dread and suspense as all of the connections were made between worlds. I absolutely can’t wait for the next book in this series!
I would like to thank Raincoast Books Canada for the chance to review this book before its release. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Until next time, happy reading!