The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Genre: YA Urban/Portal Fantasy
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
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.
I’m gonna start this off by saying that I read this book in April and I am having a hard time remembering much to write a review about–which kind of says something. But I did like it! I just expected more, I guess. I was hoping for Stiefvater and really the only Stiefvater I got from this was the weirdness, because the characters weren’t all that likable and I definitely wasn’t as invested as I wanted to be. On that note…
The characters here were sub-par. I had a very hard time giving a single f**k about any of them, to be completely honest. Alice included. She was kind of a terrible person, which is fine if that’s the point, but I don’t think it was in this case. Maybe a bit (especially after the plot twist), but not enough to redeem her or call her an anti-hero. Finch was also a little…meh. I liked the way he tended to call Alice out on her bullshit, but he showed a lot more potential than he ultimately met. My favourite characters were minor ones–like Janet! She was the only person that seemed to have her head on straight, but unfortunately she doesn’t show up until pretty far into the novel.
The plot was kind interesting, but I did think it was going to be more of a standard fantasy novel, rather than a portal/urban fantasy (which is probably partly why this book is getting so many mixed reviews). That said, I did really enjoy the fairy tales. We only got a couple of full stories in the book, but they were exactly what I wanted the rest of the book to be–very creepy, a little weird, and beautifully written. I am really excited about the Tales from the Hinterland collection that Albert is planning on publishing, if only because they were my favourite part of the book.
That’s about it, I guess? This review was shorter than my usual ramblings, but I don’t have that much to say. I don’t know whether I’ll be picking up the sequel, but I probably will get the Tales from the Hinterland collection (especially if the cover is as pretty as this one is).
Have you read this book?
What are your thoughts–do you agree or disagree with the mixed reviews?