The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1)
By: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 30th 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.
This book wasn’t on my radar before it was released, but after continually seeing it on the bestseller list I finally caved and bought it (not just for the pretty cover, although it is GORGEOUS). And I’m so glad I did–this was the perfect book to read on a somewhat rainy day, when you feel like being consumed by fairytales.
Alice and her mother have been running their entire lives–from what, Alice doesn’t know quite what. After her reclusive grandmother dies, Alice and her mother think they’re safe from whatever’s been pursuing them–but when that bad luck catches up to them after all, Alice has no other choice than to team up with the one person she knows who might know what’s going on–the one person she knows who’s read her grandmother’s book Tales of the Hinterlands, Ellery Finch.
This book felt like the kind of thing that Holly Black fans will love unequivocally–another way of saying this is that if you liked Cruel Prince (as I did), this book will be your jam. Alice is a bit of an unpredictable character–years of traveling around and more than a few anger issues will do that to you–but driven by a fundamental love for her mother. This is definitely more interesting than a fundamental InstaloveTM. That being said, Alice does find something of a compatriot in Ellery Finch, a school friend obsessed with her grandmother’s writing. He helps guide her into the HInterlands, even if he’s deeply unprepared for what awaits them both there.
The story was creepy, with parts clearly meant to send a crawling sensation up your spine, but it had a strange sort of beauty to it also. The details veered between the unearthly and the odd, until they became one and the same, until it felt almost like a dream world I was entering with Alice. But there were elements that grounded the book as well, notably Alice’s love for Ella. The details and the plot were what I liked best–how we started out with a few oddities in a mostly ordinary day, and traveled with Alice to a place that felt utterly ethereal, in the darkest kind of way.
The plot isn’t exactly memorable–the big reveal is pretty clearly telegraphed chapters beforehand–but I appreciated it nevertheless. Alice’s journey was captivating, and I wanted to badly for her to get what she needed, to achieve her aims. Even though there were a few holes, the dreamlike writing forgave them.
And this book has one of my favorite creepy-fairytale things: an ending that doesn’t QUITE turn out perfect, but turns out all the better for it. I enjoyed where Alice’s journey ended and where it ended–and although Melissa Albert leaves a tantalizing space for a companion novel, I might prefer to just savor the dreamworld that is the Hazel Wood.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.