Review | The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood.

Author: Melissa Albert.

Genre/s: Fantasy, Young Adult.

UK Release Date: 8th Feb 2018 by Penguin.

US Release Date: 30th Jan 2018 by Flatiron Books.

(Goodreads, Amazon UK, Book Depository)

This was so dark and lush. The writing was flowery and full of depth and I very much enjoyed the way Melissa Albert created this very twisted tale. It was different and more original than I expected. I read a couple of other early reviews and saw that a couple of reviewers opinions whom I trust were actually saying it was a little too similar to Alice in Wonderland. And the fact that the main character's name was also Alice made me think it was a retelling. But even though it was a kind of portal fantasy and there was a lot of whimsical nonsense, I couldn't predict anything about this story so the plot and character traits were very different from 'Alice' in that way. This may be an unpopular opinion but Alice in Wonderland is probably one of my least favourite classics, I just don't enjoy it very much. And yet I loved this book. So if you aren't sure about whether to pick up this or not because it doesn't really seem like something you would be into, I would urge you to give it a go because for me it was well worth the read and I am so glad I requested it.

“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams..."

The protagonist, seventeen-year-old Alice alongside her mother Ella has spent most of her life on the road running away from the overwhelming bad luck that seems to follow them wherever they go. But one day they get a letter saying her grandmother, an introvert author of mysterious, and deeply dark fairy tales dies alone on her estate; the Hazel Wood. Then things take a turn for the worse and her mother Ella is stolen away by a person whom isn't really quite a person. Someone who actually belongs in the Hinterland; the origin place of her grandmother's stories.

“You might think you have a really good reason, but nothing could be worth this. Nothing could be worth feeling this way. I feel like a changeling wearing someone else's skin. I can't remember what I liked, or what I wanted, why I worked or left the house or did anything. It's all gone... I think whatever I used to be, it dropped through the binding. I wish the rest of me had gone with it.”

I thought it was clever how the author intertwined the various smaller stories and tales inside the one main plot. I actually want to know more about them. There are so many possibilities for great stories within this world. How they all worked together to create a sort of puzzle, made the read overall very mysterious. Also the lyrical verses and rhymes made it even more eery to read.

“There are no lessons in it. There's just this harsh, horrible world touched with beautiful magic, where shitty things happen."

I fell in love with the side characters as well, one of my favourite things was the fact that all these strange individual characters were very fleshed out and each of them had a depth to them. None of them felt superficial and I applaud the author for this because there is usually always a side character in a story that is lacking somewhere. But when it came to this book, I didn't feel that way at all. Maybe it's because I was so intrigued by the 'fairytale' characters and I wanted to know as much about them as possible. But I ate up all the extra intricate details. Speaking of which, the world building was astoundingly intricate and the descriptions left nothing to be desired. I easily imagined this story and it was so vivid in my mind.

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful queen who thought words were stronger than anything. She used them to win love and money and gifts. She used them to carry her across the world.”

At first I was pretty torn on what my feelings were. It took me a while to get fully invested in the story and the characters. The first third or so of the book felt very jumpy and disjointed but the flow definitely improved eventually. It was creepy and odd and made me laugh a lot. Some things were just so weird that I couldn't help cackling. (If you've read it then you'll know about the car/water scene, that is just one of the instances where I laughed way too much, but honestly it was great.) I do however feel that the first half of the book could have been done in a quicker way and the last half more spaced out. Because it went from, forgive me for saying this but, kind of boring to fantastically captivating and fast paced. Almost too much so toward the end. But the interesting plot twists made up for it.

"I feel like I’m playing a part in a movie where all the sets have burned down. And the script got erased. And the cameras have no film, and we’re in a haunted movie lot in a bad part of town."

Overall I found this a very captivating read and would recommend it. I will absolutely be looking out for more from Melissa Albert especially the follow-up novel to this book and the Tales from the Hinterland.

RATING: 4 Stars

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for reading!

- Sophie

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