Book review: The Hazel Wood
Book reviews

The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Release date: 30 January 2018
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3 stars

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Alice Proserpine 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 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 this cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind:

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with her classmate and fairy-tale superfan Ellery Finch, who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To find her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood and then into the world where she might discover why her own story went so wrong.

Honestly, this book was probably my most disappointing read for 2018, which made me REALLY sad (it’s also why it has taken me so long to review). It was also in all of the book boxes: FairyLoot, OwlCrate… ok, so I can only name two of them, but still! I was expecting more from a book with so much hype. Not to say that the whole book was bad – it wasn’t. I think it was just too hyped (and if I had have just picked it up from a shelf to read, then I might have given it another half star).

The story was quite slow to get started, and so much of it is set in our world, which I wasn’t expecting. (FYI, this is definitely urban fantasy!) We start with Alice, who’s a bit emo (no judgement, me too), and a bit strange. Alice feels out of place too, but she puts it down to having moved around a lot. They’ve finally ‘landed on their feet’ according to Alice’s mum though they’ve moved in with her mum’s fiance, and ‘things are going to be different’ from now on. And they are, but not for the better.

At school Alice has a psuedo-friend (Ellery) who is one of the cult like fanatics of Alice’s grandmother’s book. The book, The Hazel Wood, is full of delightfully creepy fairytales and it was a limited run print. The books are super rare (a book collector’s dream), but strange things happen to copies of them when they are bought. They are very often stolen or damaged, making the copies that do still exist even rarer. There are no online versions and no one likes to talk about the stories in them either. Which is unfortunate for Alice, because there’s a character who looks just like her in the one of the stories (Alice Three Times) and her mother won’t let her anywhere near the stories or her grandmother. Alice’s grandmother still lives on the property that allegedly backs onto The Hazel Wood (she insists it’s a real place), and every fanatic who has entered the property won’t speak about their experiences … if they return at all.
As you can imagine, this whole synopsis has this delightfully creepy vibe going for it. As Alice and Ellery race against the clock to find a copy of the book and save her mother strange things happen. Characters from the book (from what Ellery can remember of it) are appearing across New York trying to hunt Alice down. And Alice has the biggest mystery of all to solve, who is Alice Three Times?

I’m really sad to say this, but I felt like the characters were kind of two dimensional. They were all only driven by one thing, and I didn’t feel like there was any kind of depth to them. I didn’t have any favourites, and I didn’t hate any of them either, although Ellery was kind of annoying. They were just there to drive the story onwards, and fell flat for me. (Does that even make sense??)

The world building of The Hazel Wood was kind of interesting. I think if the book had have been entirely set in the fictional space, this would have been a totally different book (and review). The New York setting was fine, but I was expecting a high fantasy novel, not an urban fantasy, and I think this is where it all started to fall apart for me.

One of the weirdest thing about this book, is that I think this could be read as a standalone. At the end of it I thought it had all kind of wrapped up (or maybe I just didn’t care enough about the characters to think there would be another book), but apparently there is a sequel coming later this year. I might read it? I guess it depends on how I’m feeling when it’s released and what the synopsis is.

However, if Albert were to publish the ACTUAL fairytales as a book written by the grandmother, then I would devour that! The glimpses that we get to see of those fairytale-esque stories were fantastic. They had the right amount of gore and twistedness, without being too thriller-y (I’m secretly a scaredy cat) and just a touch of moral-story to them. If they were published, then I would absolutely read them (and likely recommend them 100 times).

Until next time, happy reading ??


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