The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Published by: Flatiron Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an ARC from the publisher as a bookseller for barnes & Noble in return for an honest review.**
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.
The Hazel Wood is the wish of every fantasy lover out there, who dreams of finding a magical door to another world that is home to their favorite stories. Or is it? This book takes the idea of doors-between-worlds and fairy-tale adventures and turns them upside down on their heads and hands you their bleeding hearts on a corroded silver platter. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it gives you chills, but also keeps you completely entranced for the entire ride.
From the first page this book drew me in and captured my attention through to the end. The haunting illustrations at the top of each chapter hint at what might be in store, but the story pulls the reader along as Alice searches for her mother and an understanding of what her life really is. The plot is fast-paced but doesn’t rush into things, and is filled to the brim with an adventure and characters that steal your breath away. The writing is spectacular, flowing beautifully and full of wonderfully haunting imagery that chills to the bone and keeps you hungering for more. And just the way Melissa Albert sort of turns things on a head when it comes to the meaning of family, of home, of finding your place, of finding yourself, is just simply stunning and unique. It’s definitely a story that really makes you think and that lingers in the mind long after.
The characters were well written and kept the story going, with Ellery Finch sort of stealing my heart away. I thought Alice was interesting, and her determination and love for her mother was strong and beautiful, I just don’t think I personally would ever care to be her friend. She could be a little self-centered, and her quick temper was a little unappealing, although that made sense to her character in the long run. I guess what I am saying is is that I can appreciate her as a character, but I just don’t personally care for her personality. On the other hand, Finch is easy to sympathize with, as he is clearly the epitome of readers who dream of traveling to new worlds, but with his own unique personality and given circumstances that help shape who he is. His character arc was bittersweet, but made sense and made the whole story all that much more real despite the magic flowing throughout it.
Overall, this book was mesmerizing. It took a concept dreamt of by most readers, twisted it out of shape, and brought the shadows of it to light. It moved gracefully and was completely engaging throughout the story, while giving off such haunting and chilling qualities that keep the reader unable to put it down. If you are a fan of all things dark and twisted, and of stories both magical and cruel, then this is definitely the book for you.