Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Publication: January 30th 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages:  368 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, YA, Fairy Tales
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤

“I ask if I can come talk to her in person, and her laugh is hot whiskey on ice. “You’d get lost on the way to finding me,” she says. “You’d need breadcrumbs, or a spool of thread,” (Albert 1).

This review was a hard one to write because I have so many thoughts on The Hazel Wood. It’s one of this year’s biggest releases and has been getting a lot of hype and rave reviews, which it definitely deserves, but my thoughts are still muddied up in some points, clear in the other.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Once upon a time, there was seventeen-year old Alice Proserpine, granddaughter of the one hit wonder of the literary world Althea Proserpine who’s dark fairy tale collection Tales from the Hinterland. The book was a wide success, and as quickly as it gained fame it disappeared, becoming a rare book to find and one devoured by her rabid fans online. Alice has never met her grandmother or read her book, her mother made sure of that. Though Alice wasn’t raised on fairy tales her life does seem to be one series of unfortunate events after the other, always on the run from state to state when the bad luck that follows her and her mother forces them out to a new home. Just when Alice thinks her luck is at its worse, her mother is kidnapped by someone who claims to be from the world of her grandmother’s books. With only a warning from her mother telling her not to go to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s estate, Alice does all she fan to discover what the Hinterland is, find her mother, and find out what role she plays in her grandmother’s life.

First things first, I completely understand the hype for this book. Albert is an incredibly talented writer whose words pull in readers with her descriptions, making them feel exactly what she wants her readers to feel. I was glued to this book from the start and was so interested in Alice, her anger, and her motivations as well as the mystery surrounding her grandmother Althea and her beloved book Tales from the Hinterland.

I couldn’t stop reading this book! I was obsessed with following Alice and Ellery on their journey to find Alice’s mom and the mysterious Hazel Wood, and I loved the snippets of stories from Tales from the Hinterland to give readers a peek into Althea’s book and why it’s so beloved in the world of Albert’s story. But then the story took a turn, not unexpected, but it’s left me uncertain with my overall feelings towards the book.

The Hazel Wood has everything I adore about fairy tales and retellings; it’s actually one of my favourite kinds of genres. Two of my favourite books of all time are The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende and both these books like The Hazel Wood feature characters travelling into a story and experiencing the story for themselves. The problem is that The Book of Lost Things and The Neverending Story do it better.

I was so excited for when we would get to the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland with Alice and was just left disappointed. It seemed to go by so quickly with much of the world being left undiscovered. I wanted to see the darkness Althea’s fans claimed existed in the book, I wanted to know more about this dark fairy tale world. I just wanted so much more from the Hinterland that I didn’t get. I wish that the book had been a bit longer so that we would get to explore this world that was hyped up from the beginning.

This isn’t to say that The Hazel Wood is bad book, the parts in the Hinterland are well-written and interesting, but I just felt there could be more to it. With how quickly it was all resolved (in multiple ways and with multiple characters that I can’t even fully get into. Janet? The doors? How were their no consequences to any of this?) it made what I’m sure was meant to be a happy ending feel hollow, and I kept hoping that same spark that had made me excited to read this story and find out what was happening would return but it had been snuffed out by the end. The ending does leave me confused as to why there will be a sequel to this book, since everything ended pretty tied up (unless the next book follows Finch of course, which I don’t know if I’m that interested in reading about.).

I’m cautiously excited for the companion book coming out in 2020 (why so long?!) of the actual Tales from the Hinterland. I hope to finally get some insight into this world and get to know these characters stories and their endings. The titles alone are intriguing and I hope it won’t let me down.

The Hazel Wood is an excellent debut by Melissa Albert which charms and lures readers into a mystery of dark fairy tales, but ultimately doesn’t live up. But Albert’s talent as a writer is not to be missed, and this is a great book to get a taste of her amazing writing ability. I look forward to reading her future books.

 

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