Happy Friday, friends! I’m back today with another bullet-point review of a book that’s been quite popular and talked-about around the blogosphere lately…
Melissa Albert, The Hazel Wood, Published by Penguin, February 8th, 2018.
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.
- I found the writing and Melissa Albert’s storytelling captivating. I loved her writing style and felt instantly immersed into the story. The moments of tension, happiness, creepiness and everything else went right through me as I read. To be completely honest, I aim to write like her someday.
- The Hazel Wood was very imaginative: I love how it took a little of its inspiration on fairytales, yet spinned it in its completely own way. The stories that are told within the story, of princesses and ice, murder and revenge… it felt like reading fairytales, really, if slightly creepier than the ones I am used to.
- Unlike popular opinion, asking for there to be more of the book set in the Hinterland, a.k.a the magical place here, I was quite happy with the rhythm of the story somehow? I liked how everything set up slowly, how they went onto a quest, how the real world gradually changed around them as weirdness arose. That was really, really cool to read.
- I really liked the characters, especially Alice, our main character, and Finch. Alice was complex and hard to fall in love with, yet I rooted for her and wanted just as badly as she did to find out the truth about her family and who she was. Finch was such a precious character, I fell in love with him right on the first page and wanted to hug him at all times.
- I appreciated that there was no real romance here. Where, in your usual fantasy book, you always find a hint of romance and kisses here and there, here… well, there just was an interesting and slow developing FRIENDSHIP I really appreciated. Did I want more? Yes, because I am like that. But I also appreciated that it stayed a great friendship.
- I also really loved the fact that this book was so family-centered, with the strong relationship between Alice and her mother, Ella. They had such a strong bond and I loved Alice’s determination and love for her mother showing all through the story.
I HAD A HARD TIME WITH…
- Unlike popular opinion again (or, from what I have seen and heard), I kind of found myself disconnecting a bit more from the story as it went on in the Hinterland, a.k.a the fantasy world in this story. Somehow, the beginning, the quest, the mystery, the real world becoming weird and everything, had me REALLY hooked. The last third of the story, set in the real Hinterland, found myself a bit… lost, somehow? Maybe that’s because there was so little in the actual book developed in the Hinterland, I didn’t quite have time to get accustomed to its rules and strange characters.
- I wanted to get to know Alice’s mother maybe a bit more. I feel like we got a great mother-daughter relationship, yet I missed some… I don’t know, bonding moments, real ones, really showing Ella off a little bit?
- I was expecting a bit of a mind-blowing ending that I did not get, somehow. It was a good ending and wrapped things up nicely and left me with no questions, yet… I don’t know, I wanted fireworks and I just had a beautiful sunset.
The Hazel Wood was a really great debut and I understand the blogosphere’s frenzy about it all. I was captivated by the story and its characters, by the imaginative world-building and relationships. It missed a little something for it to be a mind-blowing read, but I would still recommend it to the ones that like their fairytales dark and mesmerizing.
Final rating: 4 drops!
Thank you to Penguin Random House UK and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book. This did not, in any way, influence my opinion on this.
Trigger warnings: a bit of graphic violence and macabre.
Did you read The Hazel Wood? Do you want to read it?
Are you a fan of fairytales in stories, or fairytailes retellings? What are some of your favorites? Let me know in comments!