The Hazel Wood is a YA fantasy by Melissa Albert and is recently published on January 30th, 2018 by Flatiron Books.
I absolutely loved this!! This is probably the first book of 2018 that has driven me crazy with all the amazing things it has and ugh, I don’t know if this review would even be coherent enough with my over-driven feels about this.
The Hazel Wood is a dark fables driven fantasy that evilly makes its readers pleasantly suffer the secret it withholds.
The story starts off with Alice and her mother, Ella, who have always been on the road to anywhere away from the bad luck that seems to keep following them. When one day, they receive a letter claiming Althea’s—Alice’s grandmother—death. Suddenly, everything appears to be falling in place: Ella falls in love with a rich businessman and both, her and Alice, shift to his high-end residence, Alice gets admitted to a school where only the rich kids usually go to, and she has a job like any other normal teenager would. But things weren’t as good as they looked—Alice comes across the guy who had once kidnapped her when she was a little girl and runs off home, only to find her mother missing. Taken by the Hinterland.
I should really be sitting with a thesaurus (or Google) to keep finding synonyms for love, because it’s gonna get too repetitive at some point. Apologies if me shouting my appreciation would be annoying to you!
I might be one of those who hasn’t devoured every other fantasy (I’m a fan but it’s still not the first on my list) so this concept intrigued me so much. Fairy tales are my favorite and creatively crafted ones that doesn’t hint a happily-ever-after at all, is all the more interesting. 2018 is probably the year for dark perspectives being brought into the spotlight and this debut nails the growing trend. The plot is perfectly planned with all possible pessimistic probabilities (I swear I didn’t say this solely for the alliteration) and so much so that even the slightest happy thing makes your ears (eyes in this case)perked up for what might be lying ahead.
Alice had grown up with questions that Ella never answered and her curiosity peaked up even more when she came across a magazine article about The Hazel Wood—her grandmother’s multi-dollar estate. A relative she hadn’t heard about from Ella because she always refused to speak of her, Althea had always been a far-off star she wanted to touch. So despite of fair warnings to stay away from The Hazel Wood, Alice still takes off to this place because she hopes to get her answers—or her mother’s whereabouts—here.
I loved Alice. She is sort of rude, appears to be arrogant at times, gets super furious, and often comes across as expressionless, but the thing here is: she does all that involuntarily; it’s her personality traits and have a justification that I would stray away from stating because this review is meant to be spoiler-free. As an expressing-limited-number-of-expressions kinda person myself* I could relate to those little things that were meant to be funny (or not, I’m not sure!). Basically, she was a really good character for me that I felt grow up from a confused little teenager to a stronger daughter.
Speaking of that, I also loved the whole mother-daughter relationship portrayal. Ella isn’t one of the usual moms but she’s nothing less when it comes to protecting and loving her child. Alice isn’t any usual either but again, she’s willing to got to ends for her mother and that’s about what every daughter would be ready to, too. Ella worked as a really good side character that came alive through Alice’s memories and past experiences.
While I’m at it, I’ll also mention how good of a person Finch was! He’s been a fan of Althea’s dark fairy tales collection forever and when Alice’s connection to her comes to his notice, he doesn’t even blink his eye before deciding to tag along with her to The Hazel Wood. He’s the smarter person because of his prior knowledge about the Tales of Hinterland which makes him important. He isn’t a love interest, far from it; he’s a partner in act who gives way to sequences and doesn’t simply follow around the main character. His role takes turns at all the right places that you should read to find out because (yeah, I know, I’m being monotonous with this excuse) this is meant to be spoiler-free. All in all, each and every character had a huge impact on the main story line.
Coming on to the writing. I loved it…like everything else about this book! It’s lyrical, perfectly-paced, descriptively balanced, and just a pleasure to read. The narration is a first-person viewpoint of Alice and works tremendously to bring that expressionless soul to life. While Alice, out of all, is the most illiterate in terms of her knowledge about The Hazel Wood or the Tales of Hinterland, she doesn’t confuse or frustrate the readers because the writing does its job well enough to give exactly what it wants to and at exactly what time. Overall, this is going to be on my fave list and I can’t be more excited about the sequel!
I would recommend this to all those who love a good evil fantasy that draws you into a fairy tale land that you would rather stay away from. No, but in all seriousness, this is perfect for the magical, fantasy fans who are always pleasantly surprised by a folklore that hangs in a dark world.
Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’s, Time Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn. The Hazel Wood is her first novel. [Bio from Book Browse]
I received a digital copy of this via Netgalley but that in no way influences my rating and/or opinions about it. Thank you Flatiron Books and Melissa Albert!