Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review: The Hazel Wood

Title: The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1)
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Fairytales
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Source: ALA
Format: ARC

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 (goodreads).

The Hazel Wood was a creepy delight!
Plot: Since she was a child, Alice and her mother were always on the run to escape their 'bad luck'. When they receive word that Alice's grandmother, Althea, passed away, Alice's mother announced that they were free from the bad luck and could live life normally. Except Alice's mother was kidnapped and it seemed like the kidnappers were leaving a fairytale trail for Alice to follow. 

My husband asked me to describe this one to him (because he liked the cover) and the first thing that came to mind was 'Neil Gaiman.' The Hazel Wood was brutal and dark with creepy yet beautiful fantasy aspects. If you're a fan of Coraline or any of Neil Gaiman's darker short stories, I think you'll enjoy this one!

The Hazel Wood was written beautifully and kept me rapidly turning pages. The mystery unraveled at a pleasing pace which was due in part to the fairy tale stories that Albert snuck in every so often. While I enjoyed the reading experience and how creative the premise was, I was surprised by how rushed the last one hundred pages felt. Truthfully, I saw this book told in two parts, and the second part had the most reveals and it's unfortunate that Albert didn't allow more time for the reader to process all of the bombshells. 

When I read The Hazel Wood, I had no idea that a sequel was planned. I personally thought that The Hazel Wood wrapped up nicely, but I won't object to a continuation!

Characters: Alice truly had a rough upbringing; she and her mom were basically couchsurfing and Alice knew nothing of her famous grandmother who penned dark fairytales. It's understandable that she had a rough edge to her and I liked that about her. She was defensive but her walls began to fall once she found an ally in her classmate, Finch. 

I was impressed that Albert managed to squeeze in a conversation about White Privilege in a fantasy novel and I want to applaud her for taking the time to make Alice check her privilege. 

Worldbuilding: Nothing could have prepared me for the world of The Hazel Wood and I'm in awe that Melissa Albert managed to balance fantasy with the real world. The best way to describe the world was modern day New York City with some creepy creatures leaking into it. The fantasy wasn't ouvert in the real world, it was just enough to have Alice and Finch do a double take or wonder if the radio station just happened to play a random song, or if she were receiving a message. There was a world that I wanted to learn more about, and maybe I'll have that opportunity in the sequel. 

Short N Sweet: The Hazel Wood is an impressive debut that will leave you feeling slightly off-balanced. 


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