Book Review: The Hazel Wood

Categories Books, Culture
The Hazel Wood Book on a table

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

At First Glance

First off, my copy of The Hazel Wood looks amazing! It’s blue, gold and covered in leaves. It’s also got blue gilding which is what drew me to it in the first place. (Is it called gilding if it’s not gold?)

The Hazel Wood ticked all my boxes. Fairy tales, teen angst and weirdness. But for some reason, it took me nearly a year to actually read it! I’m the worst. But I finally did!

Plot

The Hazel Wood follows Alice, a seventeen-year-old lost soul. Alice has spent her life hopping from place to place with her free-spirit of a mother, Ella. Alice’s grandmother, Althea is an author of a collection of dark fairytales, Tales from Hinterland. Althea dies on her estate The Hazel Wood and this begins Alice’s adventure. Ella is stolen and it’s up to Alice to figure out where she went, how to find her and bring her home.

The story unravels as the Hinterland leaks from its reality into Alice’s. And Alice’s entire world becomes more dark and twisted than any of the tales from Hinterland.

I enjoyed reading the first two-thirds of Hazel Wood. Alice and her only friend, Ellory Finch, take a road trip from New York to find Ella in Hazel Wood. Their dynamic is great. The darkness trickles over the plot, getting deeper and deeper the further they get to their goal.

Then in the final third, Alice gets to Hazel Wood and goes into the fae world, Hinterland. This is where things got tricky for me. I really wanted to like it, so I’m sad to write this. Hinterland was not dark enough for me and it felt rushed. Until the point of entry into Hinterland there were some amazing dark moments. Deaths, blood, creepy characters and oddities. But in the home of these people, there was barely any darkness. It was a letdown. Not a great climax to an otherwise awesome story.

Characters

The whole book revolves around four main characters. Or at least, that’s how I see it. Alice, our protagonist. Ella, Alice’s mother, our damsel. Althea, Alice’s Grandmother, author of the book, reason for everything. Ellory Finch, Alice’s love interest and an extreme fan of Althea.

Alice

I liked Alice. I found her easy to follow. Melissa Albert does a great job giving us her world view.; a kind of cynical but kind of hopeful, very angry view. One thing, and I know it’s intentional, but I really hated was that her name was Alice. The Hazel Wood shares lots with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It felt too on the nose to name her Alice too. .I’ve got such a massive space in my heart for Alice in Wonderland. (It’s my all time favourite.) So, when a character is trying to be a reflection of her in someway, it just has to be smarter.

But, let’s be real here, I’m nick-picking over my own emotional connection to a name. I’m not really doing a character critique.

And the rest…

Ellory, I loved. He plays his role as a love interest perfectly. I could picture every part of their early interactions as if they had happened to me. He perfectly balanced Alice. I didn’t find his connection to Althea to be superficial at all. In fact, it was neatly weaved into his core characteristic, of a lonely rich boy, that it made my heart hurt a little. It was wonderful watching him grow next to Alice. I thought this could easily have been a story about Ellory Finch and his own journey into the Hinterland.

For me, the only disappointment was Althea herself. As I read, I desperately wanted to meet her, just like Alice. And I loved how Melissa Albert had manipulated me into wanting exactly what Alice wanted. I was desperate for Althea’s stories. And I got them and they were awesome. I was desperate to see The Hazel Wood. And I got there and it was, well, horrible but perfect. I was desperate to meet Althea. And I got to and I don’t remember it. It’s so sad! I only finished this book a few weeks ago and I remember nothing about Althea. She had this amazing impact on her fans, her family and the world, yet she was so disappointing to read.

Final Thoughts

Ovrall, The Hazel Wood gets a thumbs up from me. Despite not enjoying the last third, I was really inspired by everything else. The Alice-Ellory relationship is where the book shines. I could tell Melissa Albert thought about them. About how every interaction they had would bring them closer together or push them apart.

Fairytales are so special, fun and weird. The Hazel Wood does a wonderful job at championing them and brings them into a modern world. Honestly, it’s a perfect read for a fairy-tale addict. One thing to add, is that I need to read Tales from the Hinterland immediately.

Facts & Ratings

Pages: 359
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 30 January 2018
Time to Read: Like 5-6 hours (over a weekend)

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Characters: 4/5
Readability: 5/5
Story: 4/5
Visuals: 3/5

Where to find it:

Waterstones: For a shiny new copy

World of Books: For an equally as good, pre-loved copy

And if you liked this book review, please check out my last one on A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan.

Thanks for reading!

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