Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books on January 30th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads

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.

Ever read something so delightfully dark, strange and magical that you couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty you loved it so much, even with all the bloody parts? Though I confess I didn’t feel one bit guilty about loving all the gritty bloody parts of The Hazel Wood. My little black heart relished in all its grisly glory.

It’s about time we finally have a fairy tale that isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. That doesn’t necessarily end in “happily ever after” or with anyone being “saved”.  A fairy tale that is reminiscent of the long forgotten Grimm tales. Before they were all “Disney-fied” with a whoosh of a wand by a benevolent fairy god mother. Well friends, The Hazel Wood is the book for you!

Welcome to The Hazel Wood, where nothing is what is seems. Alice is enthralled with her elusive grandmother Althea Proserpine, the writer of an infamous collection of dark fairy tales called Tales from the Hinterland. Ella (Alice’s mom) is determined to keep Alice away from her grandmother or stepping foot in The Hazel Wood, Althea’s enigamous estate. Yet this never deters Alice from collecting bits of news story on her grandmother whenever she can get her hands on it.

Ella keeps them on the run; drifting from place to place trying to avoid the “bad luck” she is so adamant is always following them.  Now that Alice is older, she can’t help but wonder if all this moving has anything to do with her grandmother and the fairy tale world she created.  Soon enough Alice gets her answers when a note appears stating that her grandmother is dead, and soon after Ella goes missing.

 

Alone for the first time, Alice turns to the only person she feels can help her, a school mate named Ellery Finch who happens to be an uber-fan of Althea’s book.

Together they set off to find Ella, who Alice is convinced (due to mysterious  and grim clues left for her), has been snatched away to The Hazel Wood by the characters of The Hinterland.  Little does Alice realize how treacherous and bloody their journey is about to become.

This is not an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I’ve heard a few readers mentioning this, and though I found some similarities, I allotted that to how my own mind works.

Although, while reading I did keep thinking about how Ellery Finch reminded me of the White Rabbit leading an unknowing Alice down the void of the rabbit hole and straight into the hands of a variety of fairy tale characters. While not all of them are “mad” or “bloodthirsty” the possibilities for peril are always there.

I thought Twice-Killed Katherine (one of my favorites) reminded me of The Queen of Hearts, but instead of chopping off heads she just sucks you dry of your vitality and life. Even the Spinner could be seen as a combination of the mischievous Cheshire cat and the wise yet confusing smoking Caterpillar.

Then there is the stepping through “portals” from the mundane “reality” into the wondrous and ravenous world of the Hinterland.  Which is a bit like stepping “through the looking glass” but I also found it very similar to Belle crossing the invisible barrier in the forest that allowed her to discover the Beast’s castle. Or even hiding in a wardrobe and pushing so far in that you end up in Narnia.

The moment Alice finally finds and enters The Hazel Wood/The Hinterland is one of my favorite scenes from the book. I love how the author captured this moment, and made it her own.

I really liked Alice, though I could see where her “icy-ness” could rub some readers the wrong way. However before judging her too harshly keep in mind Alice has been through a lot. She has no stable home or friendships. She’s a teenager with lots of unanswered questions. To me, the hidden rage just below her surface is expected and what made her “real”.  I liked her fierceness, intelligence and independent nature. I also love all her book and pop culture references through out the story.

Another favorite part of The Hazel Wood were the tidbits and peaks of the stories from Tales of the Hinterland. These strange, ominous and creepy tales NEED to be a actual book one day.  The “stories” /characters from the Hinterland were intriguing and I really hope we get to find out more about them.  (PRETTY PLEASE MELISSA!!!)

For readers who want a bit of a “trigger warning” this book does contain unsettling, macabre and graphic violence. When I said earlier that this story is dark, I was not joking. No rainbows, sparkles, sunshine or pretty ponies. Okay? Enter at your own risk (::whispers creepily:: Do it….the dark side has cookies…or at least some type of booze/food at the pub found deep in the Hinterland where the “stories” hangout….).

The Hazel Wood has kept me mesmerized for almost a year now. I found the author’s take on the ever changing genre of fairy tales to be refreshing and brilliant. Melissa Albert crafts a fascinating tale filled with complex stories within a story that is haunting, unique and unforgettable.

If you want to find yourself lost in a magical moon-lit forest filled with “stories” that can lure you to your bloody end or all sorts of other mayhem,  enter The Hazel Wood. You won’t regret it.  I highly recommend it, and rate it 5 stars+.

UPDATE: THERE WILL BE MORE BOOKS!!!! The Hazel Wood will have a  second book and Tales from the Hinterland will also be a book!!! Every part of my  soul was dancing with happiness when I heard this news.

I can’t wait to return to this bewitching world in 2019 and 2020 when Albert will be releasing book 2 and Tales from the Hinterland.

A very special THANK YOU to Flatiron Books (Thanks Sarah!!!) for providing me with an ARC of The Hazel Wood in return for an honest review. As well as Melissa Albert for writing this delightfully wicked debut. 

 

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