Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert

I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Earlier this year I gave Good Omens five stars, but going into that one I had a pretty good feeling about it, since it was by my two favorite authors, and even though I loved it to death it didn't inspire anything in me beyond what a normal book does. It was just, simply, a really REALLY good read. But this book... Oh man, The Hazel Wood is my first true, five-star, one hundred percent in love with it, book of the year.

A heads up before we get further into the review: I did actually listen to this on audiobook. I have a physical copy, and an ARC I received from the publisher via Netgalley, but since I didn't get to it until after it had released I decided to give the audiobook a try. And it does not disappoint.

First of all: the writing. And the world building. And the fact that it reads like a novel (originally it was a novel but since its success there's going to be a companion novel and, everyone cross your fingers now, an actual edition of Tales of the Hinterland). The writing is beautiful. It's prosaic and poetic and kept me gripped the entire time. The chapters that segue into fairy tales felt just as real as the "real" chapters, and the "real" chapters felt just as fantastic as the fairy tales. It was a good balance and even if the next few books Melissa Albert writes aren't Hazel Wood related, she's definitely found a an auto-buy reader in me. 

The world building ties very closely to the beautiful writing; it's all a blend of the stark reality and the soft fairy tale stories. One thing that I really appreciated was the nod to real things happening in the real world, or at least nods to these things. Particularly pop culture, like book titles and movies. Sometimes I find this frustrating and distracting but here, perhaps because it was pop culture I'm interested in and involved with so it was easy to identify with and appreciate.

Plotwise it's a straightforward enough novel, though that doesn't mean there aren't twists and turns within. I was definitely shocked more than once, and since it was an audiobook that I would listen to mostly on public transport, I'm fairly certain my "I can't believe THAT just happened" face freaked out the guy sitting across from me on the Tube. It definitely wasn't a predictable story and I appreciated that so much. The ending that actually wraps everything up was a nice surprise, too. Perhaps the nicest surprise of them all.

Characters were unique: I adored Finch (officially the first swoon-worthy YA guy of the year) and let me tell you... well, that would spoil things but, seriously, there are many things I WISH I could tell you about Finch and his character arc during the second part of the novel because I was just about blown to bits about a few things. As for Alice, I really liked her as a protagonist. Lately I feel like main characters are starting to bleed together, and not just in YA but in general in the fantasy genre, but she really stood out. Secondary characters, while none of them were that fleshed out, were all interesting and worth my time to notice and care about as characters.

Overall, I've seen reviews on both ends of the spectrum for this one. As you can tell, I was a huge fan. But I can also see why it wouldn't be for everyone. I hope I've convinced you to read it because I really think it was a spectacular read and something that probably even has reread potential.
TL;DR Definitely a debut I recommend picking up because not only did I love just about everything in this book, but it's also got the first really swoon-worthy character I've read all year.
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. 
Book cover linked to Goodreads. Book cover, author info, and description taken from Goodreads. 


  1. I've heard very mixed things about this book, but I do have it. Great review! I'll definitely pick it up soonish.

    1. Yeah I was a bit nervous going into it because it hasn't been everyone's cup of tea but I'd strongly recommend it.

  2. I'm glad to hear that you loved this as much as I did! Great review!

    I'm pretty sure I've made that face before...!


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