Book Review│The Hazel Wood

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Penguin, February 2018

359 pages

ISBN13: 9780141388663

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads, Amazon, Wordery

 

Alice has been on the road with her mother most of her life, running from bad luck and the reputation of her grandmother, an author and a recluse, whose fame came from a collection of fairy tales near impossible to get a copy of. Then her grandmother dies, and her mother is stolen away, leaving Alice alone and fighting to find a way back to the estate and the sinister world the tales began to save her. 

In The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert crafts a world that is eerie and sinister, where our main character, Alice, never seems safe. The fairy tales she encounters aren’t sweet- they are the malicious, uncaring tales you would expect to see in The Brothers Grimmwhich I adored. I felt unsettled just reading the names of the stories in Tales From the Hinterland, among which are Twice-Killed Katherine and Alice-Three-Times, a tale we can only assume Alice was named after. Seeing the fairy tale world slowly begin to creep into modern New York made it even more uncomfortable and terrifying.

As a character, Alice can be unlikable. She is volatile and at times cruel and dismissive of those around her, reluctant to let them closer than she has to. To me, this just made her compelling. The women in this book, including the girls in the Hinterland tales, are all powerful, controlling, a majority hurting those around them to keep themselves safe. Alice is full of anger and rage at everything around her, and it is this that works as the driving force behind her character. Her nastiness fits with the tone of the novel, and although this can turn people off, I feel I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if she was half as mean as she was on the page.

Another character who, in the first half of the book, receives as much page time as Alice is Finch, a superfan of Alice’s grandmother who helps her find the Hazel Wood estate. He is the only character privy to everything Alice is experiencing, and I found that preferable to having a large cast, and also showed the trust Alice had in him as someone generally quiet. He is biracial, which was brilliant, and is eager, passionate, leaving behind a home that never fully appreciated him. There is a moment where they are pulled over and he is dismissed after attempting to explain the fear he felt to Alice, which aggravated me to the point I put the book down, and although I felt it was telling of Alice’s character, I still think there could have been a way it was handled with more care, and I hope her behaviour is addressed in the sequel. Despite this, I loved his character, and thought he made a brilliant addition to the story.

Along with this one scene, I did find that I had some issues with the last half of the book. I found the first half compelling and I sped through it for all of the right reasons, wanting to know what happened as quickly as possible. However, the latter half lagged quite a bit. I read at the same pace, but was also very confused as to what was happening at certain points. Characters became muddled in my head, and I felt like the last half of the novel could have been established even more and, as a result, would not have been as rushed as it seemed to be. It just didn’t have as nice a flow as the early half, although I did love it regardless, due to the setting and what was happening to Alice. The concluding chapters also seemed to be all tell rather than show, and although the sequel is set up nicely, I was still somewhat disappointed with the lead up to the ending.

Ultimately, the thing that really made me loved The Hazel Wood was that it felt like a love letter to literature and fairy tales, and the impact the things we consume have on us. Alice talks not only about the books she reads, she also mentions films she watches with her mum, and the strong memories that come along with these things in her life. Reading this, I felt my love for film and reading being revitalised. I felt a giddiness in my heart about reading I haven’t had since I first read Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke way back in 2013, to the point where I’m genuinely sad I have to wait over a year for the sequel. I came away with more books on my Goodreads TBR, and I’m happier for it.

Despite my issues with the latter half of the novel, and the treatment of Finch’s character at certain points in the novel, overall I loved this book. It was unnerving and dark, creating a world I cannot wait to return to in the Tales From the Hinterland collection being released in 2019 (I really hope I can grab an early copy, somehow) and the sequel, which will most likely be out in 2020 (I could cry at the wait). The Hazel Wood has also been optioned for a movie adaptation, which- YES.

Definitely my favourite read of 2018 so far.

Has anyone else read this novel? What did you think of it? Also, if anyone has any recommendations based on this, whether it be books, TV shows, movies, video games- I would greatly appreciate them!

 

 

4 thoughts on “Book Review│The Hazel Wood

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