The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Publication Date: January 30, 2018 (US)
Summary from NetGalley:
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.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.
I feel just as befuddled as poor Alice after reading this book. At times I found it slow moving, but also oddly compelling and hard to put down. It also kept pulling me back to it, when I should have been doing important things. It is a dark and twisty tale that leaves you wanting more.
Poor Alice is not a particularly likable character, but she is compelling and you want things to work out for her. She has had a hard life, always on the run with her mother, so her social skills are not the best. She has a hard time accepting help from anyone and understanding that people might want to be her friend. As we get to know Alice and her full story, I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I almost want to say that this is coming of age story, in that Alice spends most of the story trying to figure out who exactly she is, in more ways than just the usual sense.
Ellery Finch was also not a very likable character, but I understood him and his motives better than Alice’s. I don’t think he fully understood what he was getting himself into when he agreed to help Alice, but at least he thought he was doing a good deed. I was not entirely happy with Ellery’s storyline, and I found it a bit confusing toward the end, but I think he was happy with how things worked out for him.
The plot is a little slow to start, and there were many times that I felt just as confused as the characters. It is a dark story, especially when Alice gets to the Hazel Wood and to the Hinterland. There is some graphic violence and horror in the stories and the characters she encounters there. There are some disturbing scenes as well. It reminded me of the original Grimm’s fairy tales, which are quite violent and disturbing. I did like that even though the two main characters were a boy and a girl, there really wasn’t any romance between them. There were a few ‘moments’ between them but there was no swooning kisses or breathless moments. It was kind of nice, even though I was hoping something would develop between them, in the end I was glad that it didn’t.
A dark and twisty plot with creepy characters and no romance. This book will certainly not be for everyone, but there will be those readers who will finding it compelling and will fall in love with it.