The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
First Published: January 30th, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dark, Mystery, Fairytales, Family
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 is a curious story.
It is mysterious from beginning to end. The atmosphere is dark enough to make suspenseful scenes give us goosebumps and the writing is a combination between fairytale-esque and modern.
I read this book for the story, not for the characters. The problem with the characters is that there are only two main ones – Alice and Finch. Other characters are mentioned, but do not appear in the story frequently, if at all.
Alice and Finch make a valuable duo, seeing that they both offer something the other one can’t. Finch knows everything about Alice’s grandmother’s book and Alice has a good instinct.
But mostly, she’s ”special” because, after all, this is basically all about her. Finch is a fan of her grandma’s so he has something to gain from going to the Hazel Wood, but Alice runs she show.
I liked Finch a lot. He is light of spirit, whereas Alice is always so private and looks at strangers with squinted eyes. Once, she called the girl Finch lost his virginity to a ”bitch” and didn’t even bat an eye.
I cared for her well-being, because I felt bad about her mother disappearing, leaving her with no one to care for her (thank goodness for Finch). But she is not a memorable heroine.
This is why I read the book for the story (and writing) instead of the figures playing a role in it. The story is so mysterious and enthralling that I kept reading and reading so I could find out more about this dark fairytale-esque world in which Alice knows not her place.
It’s not just a journey for Alice and Finch; it’s also a ”quest”. Alice must find her mother at all costs, because she believes she is in danger, what with all the strange things that have happened in their lives.
Though I wouldn’t say it’s one hundred percent original, this book does stand out with its peculiar story, so I would recommend it.
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