"Highly literary, occasionally surreal, and grounded by Alice's clipped, matter-of-fact voice, it's a dark story that readers will have trouble leaving behind. HIGH-DEMAND: the buzz for this debut is deafening..." Booklist, Starred Review
From rising star Melissa Albert comes a fantastical story of mythic proportions.
Welcome to The Hazel Wooda fiercely stunning contemporary fantasy audiobook.
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 awayby 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 beganand where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
Praise for The Hazel Wood:
"The Hazel Wood starts out strange and gets stranger, in the best possible way...Albert seamlessly combines contemporary realism with fantasy, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene...a captivating debut." New York Times Book Review
“The Hazel Wood will be your next obsession.” Stephanie Garber, author of Caraval
“Thoroughly, creepily captivating.” Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling
“This is one of the best books I've read in years.” Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places
“A dream of a book I cannot recommend highly enough.” Seanan McGuire, author of Every Heart a Doorway
About the Author
Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’s, Time Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn. The Hazel Wood is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Althea Proserpine is raising her daughter on fairy tales. Once upon a time she was a girl named Anna Parks, one of the legion of midcentury dreamers who came to Manhattan with their hopes tucked into a suitcase. Then she went missing. Then she came back, and achieved an odd kind of fame, glittering from some angles but dark from others. Now she's gone again, fled to a turreted house in the deep dark woods, where she lives with her five-year-old daughter and her husband, an actual royal — she just can't quit fairy tales. When I get her on the phone, her voice is as alluring as her most famous photo, the one with the ring and the cigarette. 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."
— "The Queen of the Hinterland," Vanity Fair, 1987
My mother was raised on fairy tales, but I was raised on highways. My first memory is the smell of hot pavement and the sky through the sunroof, whipping by in a river of blue. My mom tells me that's impossible — our car doesn't have a sunroof. But I can still close my eyes and see it, so I'm holding on to it.
We've crossed the country a hundred times, in our beater car that smells like French fries and stale coffee and plasticky strawberries, from the day I fed my Tinkerbell lipstick into the slats of the heater vent. We stayed in so many places, with so many people, that I never really learned the concept of stranger danger.
Which is why, when I was six years old, I got into an old blue Buick with a redheaded man I'd never met and drove with him for fourteen hours straight — plus two stops for bathroom breaks and one for pancakes — before the cops pulled us over, tipped off by a waitress who recognized my description from the radio.
By then I'd figured out the man wasn't who he said he was: a friend of my grandmother, Althea, taking me to see her. Althea was already secluded in her big house then, and I'd never met her. She had no friends, just fans, and my mother told me that's what the man was. A fan who wanted to use me to get to my grandma.
After they'd determined I hadn't been assaulted, after the redheaded man was identified as a drifter who'd stolen a car a few miles from the place we were staying in Utah, my mother decided we'd never talk about it again. She didn't want to hear it when I told her the man was kind, that he'd told me stories and had a warm laugh that made me believe, deep in my six-year-old's heart, he was actually my father come to claim me. She'd been shown the redheaded man in custody through a one-way mirror, and swore she'd never seen him before.
For a few years I'd persisted in believing he was my dad. When we left Utah after his arrest, to live for a few months in an artists' retreat outside of Tempe, I worried he wouldn't be able to find me again.
He never did. By the time I turned nine, I'd recognized my secret belief for what it was: a child's fantasy. I folded it away like I did all the things I didn't need — old toys, bedtime superstitions, clothes that didn't fit. My mom and I lived like vagrants, staying with friends till our welcome wore through at the elbows, perching in precarious places, then moving on. We didn't have the luxury of being nostalgic. We didn't have a chance to stand still. Until the year I turned seventeen, and Althea died in the Hazel Wood.
When my mother, Ella, got the letter, a violent shudder ran through her. That was before she opened it. The envelope was creamy green, printed with her name and the address of the place we were staying. We'd arrived the night before, and I wondered how it found us.
She pulled an ivory letter opener from the table beside her, because we were house-sitting for the kind of people who kept bits of murdered elephants around for show. With shaking hands, she slit the envelope jaggedly through its middle. Her nail polish was so red it looked like she'd cut herself.
As she shook it out, the letter caught the light, so I could see blocks of black text through the back but couldn't read them.
Ella made a sound I didn't recognize, a gasp of complicated pain that cut my breath off clean. She held the paper so close to her face it colored her skin a faint celery green, her mouth moving as she read it through again, again. Then she crumpled the letter up and tossed it into the trash.
We weren't supposed to smoke inside that place, a cramped apartment on New York's Upper West Side that smelled like expensive French soap and wet Yorkies. But Ella pulled out a cigarette anyway, and lit it off an antique crystal lighter. She sucked in smoke like it was a milk shake, tapping the fingers of one hand against the heavy green stone she wore at the pulse of her throat.
"My mother's dead," she said on an exhale, then coughed.
The news hit me like a depth charge, a knot of pain in my stomach that kept expanding. But it had been a long time since I'd spent my hours dreaming of Althea. The news shouldn't have hurt me at all.
Ella squatted down in front of me, put her hands on my knees. Her eyes were shiny but dry. "This isn't ... forgive me, but this isn't a bad thing. It's not. It could change things for us, it could —" Her voice cracked in half before she could finish. She put her head down on my knees and sobbed once. It was a desolate sound that belonged somewhere else, out there with dark roads and dead-leaf smells, not in this bright room in the middle of a loud, bright city.
When I kissed the crown of her hair it smelled like diner coffee and the smoke twining up from her cigarette. She breathed in, out, and turned her face up to look at me.
"Do you know what this means for us?"
I stared at her, then around at the room we were sitting in: rich and stuffy and somebody else's. "Wait. Does it mean we get the Hazel Wood?"
My grandmother's estate, which I'd only seen in photos, felt like a place I remembered from some alternate, imaginary childhood. One where I rode horses and went to summer camp. It was the daydream I disappeared into when I needed a break from the endless cycle of highways and new schools and the smell of unfamiliar houses. I'd paste myself into its distant world of fountains and hedges, highballs and a pool so glittering bright you had to squint against it.
But my mother's bony hand was around my wrist, pulling me out of the Technicolor lawns of the Hazel Wood. "God, no. Never. It means we're free."
"Free of what?" I asked stupidly, but she didn't answer. She stood, tossing her half-smoked cigarette into the trash right on top of the letter, and walked straight-backed out of the room, like there was something she had to do.
When she was gone, I poured cold coffee on the trash can fire and pulled out the wet letter. Parts of it were eaten into ash, but I flattened the soggy remainder against my knees. The type was as dense and oddly spaced as the text on an old telegram.
The letter didn't seem new. It even smelled like it had been sent from the past. I could imagine someone typing it up on an old Selectric, like the one in the Françoise Sagan postcard I hung up over my bed every place we stayed. I breathed in its scent of ash and powdery perfume as I scanned what was left. There wasn't much of it: we send our condolences, and come at your earliest.
And one marooned word in a sea of singed paper: Alice. My name. I couldn't read anything that came before or after it, and I saw no other reference to myself. I dropped the wet mess into the trash.
Until Althea Proserpine (born Anna Parks) died all alone on the grand estate she'd named the Hazel Wood, my mother and I had spent our lives as bad luck guests. We moved at least twice a year and sometimes more, but the bad luck always found us.
In Providence, where my mom taught art to senior citizens, the whole first floor of the house we rented flooded while we slept, on a rainless August night. A wildcat crept through a window into our trailer in Tacoma, to piss all over our stuff and eat the last of my birthday cake.
We tried to wait out a full school year in an LA guest-house Ella rented from an earnest hippie with a trust fund, but four months in the woman's husband started suffering from symptoms of chronic fatigue. After Ella moved to the main house to help out, the ceiling fell in over the master bedroom, and the hippie sleepwalked into the swimming pool. We didn't want to start a death count, so we'd moved along.
When we traveled I kept an eagle eye on the cars behind us, like bad luck could take human form and trail you in a minivan. But bad luck was sneakier than that. You couldn't outsmart it, you could only move along when it had you in its sights.
After Althea died, we stopped moving. Ella surprised me with a key to a place in Brooklyn, and we moved in with our pitiful store of stuff. The weeks ticked by, then the months. I remained vigilant, but our suitcases stayed under the bed. The light in our apartment was all the colors of metal — blinding platinum in the morning, gold in the afternoon, bronze from streetlights at night. I could watch the light roll and change over our walls for hours. It was mine.
But I still saw the shadow of the bad luck: a woman who trailed me through a used bookstore, whispered something obscene in my ear as she picked my phone from my pocket. Streetlights winking out over my head, one by one, as I walked down the street after midnight. The same busker showing up with his guitar on every train I rode for a week, singing "Go Ask Alice" in his spooky tenor.
"Pfft," Ella had said. "That's not bad luck, that's New York."
She'd been different since her mother's death. She smoked less, gained weight. She bought a few T-shirts that weren't black.
Then we came home one night to find our apartment windows cracked into glittering stars. Ella pressed her lips together and looked at me. I braced myself for marching orders, but she shook her head.
"New York." Her voice was hard and certain. "No more bad luck for us, Alice. You hear me? It's done."
So I went to public school. I hung Christmas lights around the plaster mantel behind our bed, and took a job at a café that turned into a bar when the sun went down. Ella started talking about things she'd never talked about before: painting our walls, buying a new sofa. College applications.
It was that last one that got us into trouble — Ella's dream of a normal life for me, one with a future. Because if you've spent your whole life running, how do you learn to stand still? How do you figure out the right way to turn your straw house into brick?
Ella did it the way we'd seen it in the movies, all those black-and-white AMC lie-fests we'd watched in motel rooms, in rented bungalows, in converted garden sheds and guesthouses and even, once, student housing.
She married up.
Sharp October sunlight sliced into my eyes as the train rattled over the bridge to Brooklyn. I had a head full of my mother's failing marriage and what felt like five cracked teeth in my mouth. I've had anger issues all my life, which Ella treated with meditation tapes, low-rent Reiki therapy she taught herself from a book, and the mouth guard I was supposed to wear but couldn't stand. During the day, I bit back every nasty thing I thought about my stepfather. At night, I took it out on my teeth.
The man my mother married, not four months after he asked her out at an event she was working as a cocktail waitress, lived on the second-to-top floor of a building off Fifth Avenue. His name was Harold, he was rich as Croesus, and he thought Lorrie Moore was a line of house paint. That was all you needed to know about Harold.
I was on my way to Salty Dog, home of the first job I'd ever lived anywhere long enough to keep. It was a café owned by a couple from Reykjavík, who'd put me through a six-hour cupping seminar before I was even allowed to clean the coffee machine. It was a good job for me — I could put as much into it as I wanted. I could work hard and make perfect coffee and be friendly to everyone who came in. Or I could do it all on autopilot and talk to no one, and tips barely went down.
Today I lost myself in the comforting rhythms of the café, pulling shots and making pour-over coffees, picking up scones with silver tongs and breathing in the burnt-caramel scent of ground beans.
"Don't look now, but Guy in the Hat is here." My coworker, Lana, breathed hot in my ear. Lana was a ceramicist in her second year at Pratt, who looked like David Bowie's even hotter sister and wore hideous clothes that looked good on her anyway. Today she was in a baggy orange rebel alliance–style jumpsuit. She smelled like Michelangelo must have — plaster dust and sweat. Somehow that looked good on her, too.
Guy in the Hat was our least favorite customer. Lana pretended to be busy cleaning the milk steamer, so of course I had to deal with him.
"Hey, Alice," he said, making a point of reading my name tag even though he came in every day. He bopped his head to the T. Rex playing from Lana's phone. "Cool tunes. Is that the Stone Roses?"
"Oh, my god," Lana said in a stage whisper.
He stared at the menu for a good two minutes, playing the counter like a drum. Anger gathered under my skin as I waited, making it prickle. Finally, he ordered what he always did. I stuffed his biscotti into a bag, handed over a bottle of Pellegrino, and moved behind the register so he couldn't force me to do the complicated high five he'd been trying to teach me my last few shifts.
I watched him walk away, hating the short stump of his neck, the fine blond hairs on his arms, the jumpy way he snapped his fingers off the beat. My blood went high as he brushed past a seated woman, then pressed his hand to her shoulder in heavy apology.
"God, what an asshole," Lana said at full volume, watching Guy in the Hat fumble with the door on his way out. She hip-checked me. "Alice, chill. You look like you wanna strangle him. Come on, it's just Fedora Closet."
The anger receded, leaving a hot embarrassment behind. "I wasn't going to —" I began, but Lana cut me off. She was always good for that.
"Did I tell you I saw Christian naked?" She propped her chin in her hand.
Christian was our boss. He had a tiny, beautiful wife and a huge, red-faced baby that looked like a demon in a book of woodcuts. I tried but failed to think of an innocent reason for Lana to have seen him stripped.
"Are you ... is it because you had sex with him?"
She laughed like I was far less worldly than she was, which I was but fuck you, Lana. "Can you imagine? Luisa would sic her terrifying baby on me. No, he commissioned me to do a sculpture of the family."
"Yeah," she said, already losing interest in her story.
"Oh. Was he ... was it gross?"
She shrugged, looking at something on her phone.
I had the idea, when Ella started going out with Harold, that I'd make Lana into my friend so I'd have someone of my own, but it hadn't really worked that way. She was more into having an audience than a pal.
I grabbed a rag and went out to bus, just to force Lana to make some drinks for a change. As I moved between tables, I got the prickling, shoulder-bladey feeling of someone watching me. I'm not Lana — in most situations, I go unnoticed — so it made me clumsy. I knocked over a teacup, cursed aloud, and swiped up the mess. As I did so, I cased the customers.
There was a table of women in flashing engagement rings, clustered around green teas and a single coconut donut with four forks. Two identically bearded, plaid-shirted guys at separate tables, hunched over matching Macs and unaware of each other. A woman trying to read Jane Eyre, side-eyeing the checked-out mom and spoon-banging toddler one table over. And a man in a Carhartt jacket and sunglasses sitting near the door. He wore a stocking cap despite the mugginess, and was nursing a cup of water.
Then three things happened: Lana dropped the plate she was holding, which landed with a crack on the checkerboard tile; the Carhartt man looked up over the tops of his sunglasses; and a shock wave of recognition rolled through me, leaving me shaking in my shoes.
We stared at each other, the man and I, and he saw me remember. As we locked eyes, I recalled things I'd forgotten: ten years ago, his car had smelled like Christmas trees. He'd ordered pancakes and eggs when we'd stopped for breakfast. I'd been wearing a purple corduroy jumper over a striped T-shirt and tights, and white cowboy boots with silver studs I was extremely proud of. He'd told me stories, some I recognized and some I didn't. I could never remember what they were about, after, but I remembered the feeling they gave me: the feeling you get from good poetry, real poetry, the kind that makes your neck tingle and your eyes tear up.
Excerpted from "The Hazel Wood"
Copyright © 2018 Melissa Albert.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alice is a complicated character. We learn about her in bits and pieces as she learns about herself. A quest for answers and identity. Never a dull moment. The author has a way with words. A hard to put down fantasy novel fascinating for both teens and adults.
Such a dark, messed up fairy tale. All future books will be on my must-have list!
I loved this book! It was exactly what I wanted it to be
I loved this book! Thank you for an excellent plot and flawed but loveable characters. I really appreciate that the characters weren't stupid,( it seems that's a fad with authors lately.) I sure hope that the author writes more and soon!
A wonderfully dark twisted fairytale. I devoured this book within a day and my husband did as well. If you're looking for something to suck you in and spirit you away to another reality, this is it!
Am I the only one who's sad that it's over? I feel like there were things left unfinished and untold. I hope there will be more.
It has been a long time since I have read a book where I couldn't guess the basic storyline. Kind of left Finch a bit unaccounted for, though. I'd like to know more about what he was doing and where he went (hence the 4 rather than 5 stars). Perhaps there will be a follow up?
I couldn't put it down, excellent writing and a very unique take on fairy tales. I'm really looking forward to what this author comes out with next!
Dark, magical, and alluring, The Hazel Wood is an incredibly exciting and unique take on modern fairytales. I couldn't put it down. If you enjoyed The Night Circus, you'll love this book!
RATING: 4 shimmering stars. Find more reviews on my blog, peanutbutterandbooks.wordpress.com! "When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn't stay long enough to wash her." I found this to be a lush, captivating read, with flawed main characters and a brilliantly woven dark fantasy world. (Also, oh my lord, that cover is GORGEOUS. I am in love. *endless heart eyes*) First off, the author's portrayal of the Hinterlands was incredibly mesmerizing, and I found myself completely sucked into the story. I'm honestly in awe of her imagination because WOW, that was creative. With the Disney-fication of classics like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, it's easy to forget that traditional fairy tales are very, very violent and more than a little disturbing. In Albert's book, at least, these fairy tales go even further beyond the bloodiness of the original Grimm's Fairytales. They're honestly more like horror stories than anything you'd read to children at bedtime (unless your goal is to give them nightmares!). Albert's writing style may be a hit-or-miss for some readers, but it is TOTALLY right down my alley. You can't deny that she definitely has talent—her writing flows beautifully, with that deliciously dark, twisted fantasy vibe I that I can't get enough of. One of my favorite parts of the story was definitely the short "Hinterland" fairy tales, which sent shivers down my spine. They were all delightfully disturbing (and I would 1000% buy that book if it ever came out). Now, let me just say: FINCH. Poor little Finch. He was such a sweetheart, and probably my favorite character in the book? (I just have this enormous soft spot for delicate little boys who just want to be loved.) Of course, there was definitely something immediately shady about his character. Throughout the story, you can tell that the author was really, really trying to emphasize that there was something "off" about him, a puppy-like eagerness that didn't quite sit right with his true motives. I'll be honest: the protagonist, Alice, who read more like an antiheroine, is incredibly difficult to empathize with, which, I think, is the main problem many readers had. She's not the "outwardly scathing and angry but secretly has a heart of liquid gold" protagonist that I see so often in YA novels—no, she's pretty much completely unlikeable. She's selfish, rude, arrogant, and completely disregards the struggles of others—which is the total opposite of what YA readers like me usually look for in a relatable heroine. (One notable instance being when she basically tramples all over another character's explanation of racial profiling.) On the flip side, I was left feeling rather unsatisfied by the ending. I wanted more closure on the relationships between the main characters, and on Alice's adjustment to normal life. I also felt somewhat disappointed that the one "meaningful" relationship Alice developed—other than her mother, of course—never ended up going anywhere. (Not in terms of romance, per se, just in terms of finding a close friend or ally.) Overall, I would recommend that you pick up "The Hazel Wood" if you love fairy tales with a twist. (A very disturbing twist, at that.) It may not be for everyone, but hey, you won't know until you try out the book for yourself!
“I turned slowly in place, alone in a clearing in the deep dark woods. That was when I entered a fairy tale.” Alice has been on the run from bad luck with her mother Ella since she can remember. Her grandmother, Althea was once a famous author for her book Tales from the Hinterland, a novel of dark, adult fairy tales that has slowly been disappearing in the many decades since its release. Alice has never been allowed to meet the grandmother who lives in the Hazel wood, though a kind red-haired man did once try to take a young Alice there, in what looked like a kidnapping. But one day the man returns to the coffee shop where she works, reading a copy of the mysterious book, and leaves without a word, only a comb, a feather, and a bone on the table by his empty cup. Then, Ella disappears, and her wealthy fiance demands that Alice leave the apartment for good. Stranded, Alice reaches out to the only friend she has, who also happens to be the wealthiest boy at her prep school, Ellery Finch. Ellery is a super-fan of the Hinterland, who thrills to assist Alice find her mother and the truth behind the odd book’s origins. With clever twists, quick suspense, and engrossing tales interwoven in the storyline, The Hazel Wood will make you yearn for answers from grim stories you’ve truly never heard before. For discussion questions, a themed recipe of butter pecan cupcakes with honey lavender frosting, or similar books, visit: http://hub.me/alWgX
Usually dont read books like this but di enjoy it
I totally picked this book by it's beautiful cover and I'm so glad that I did. It pulled me in immediately and I couldn't put it down. I'm not a big reader of fantasy but this one was realistic enough for me to really get into. It was mysterious, suspenseful and full of dark fairy tale themes. If you are fantasy fan young or older this is a must read! Looking forward to the next book coming out in January 2020!
Dark and creative. Read it in two days.
Original Review: www.literarychaos.com I really expected to love this book. I really wanted to love this book. I was so excited by the synopsis. I love retellings and fairytale based stories, and this one sounded like the kind of book I could lose myself in. Between the synopsis and all the hype in the bookish community, I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. That is to say, I found the story enjoyable, but I did not love it in the way that I had hoped I would. I felt like this story could have had better pacing. I really wanted more fantasy and fairytale elements. I really enjoyed the sections of the book that were set in the Hinterland, such as the fairytale chapters dispersed throughout the book, if there had been more of the story set in the Hinterland, I feel like I would have liked the story much more, but instead, the majority of the book was a road trip that I at least found rather boring. It also did not help that Alice is one of the least likable characters I have ever read. She was so rude, selfish, and ill-tempered. She constantly talked about her anger issues, and it often felt to me like she was making excuses for her behavior instead of trying to learn from her behavior and fixing it. I understand that her behavior is an important aspect of the story, but it did not make her character any more bearable. Then there was the way that she treated Finch. She was so rude to him, it really irritated me. This person is helping her, and yet she was so ungrateful. I felt like she so stuck in her own pity party that she didn't notice or understand her privilege and the inequality around her. What was worse for me there seemed to be very little growth in this aspect. I wanted a good redemption arc, I wanted realization of her privilege and her selfishness. Unfortunately, I did not get that. I feel like this is one of those polarizing books that people either really love or really dislike. I personally fell in the middle I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. I felt like it this was over-hyped, at least for my reading tastes. This book does have good aspects to it and I can see why some people really loved this story. It just wasn't for me.
.... but falls flat somewhere in the middle. Finished it but became disappointed midway. Too many characters thrown in once Alice enters Hinterland and insufficent character development of characters we've known -- or known about--- from the beginning. Finch is left in the lurch and Janet, a come lately character weighs in much too heavily. Sorry. I know I'm in the minority. Language is beautiful but obscures the plot
"The Hazel Wood" was a fascinating, dark YA fantasy that follows 17-year-old Alice, the granddaughter of the infamous author of the Hinterland fairytales. She has had a hard life with unstable living situations, which changed when her mother married a wealthy man. However, the man is not great to her mother, and Alice feels that she deserves better. Alice's life is soon turned on its head when Alice's mother is missing- apparently taken into the Hinterland. As Alice's mother has always prevented her from learning anything about the fairytales her grandmother wrote and they are no longer in print, Alice knows nothing about this land. She turns to a rich boy her age, who used to have a book and knows most of them by heart. As they journey to find the Hinterland and Alice's mother, things are not as they appear, and Alice's trip becomes something more dangerous and frightening than she could have imagined. I was instantly drawn into this story and the characters. The whole book is shrouded in mystery, and I was completely engaged in unraveling the stories and Alice's past. With dark fairytales told within the book and a perilous journey, this book is absolutely fascinating. I really enjoyed it and recommend for anyone who enjoys dark fairytales and YA fantasy! This is an enchanting story that has me ready for more. Please note that I received a copy from a giveaway. All opinions are my own.
Great modern fairytale. No handsome prince rescuing the damsel in distress. Dark and hopeful at the same time.
If only... I have a lot of mixed feelings about The Hazel Wood. I think there were elements I was so happy to see and feel, but then there were so many things that I didn’t enjoy and left a sour taste in my mouth. What I absolutely loved about this book was the elements of magic mixed into the modern day world. That was done on point and in ways that made my heart sing. There is one scene in the beginning where Alice returns to her apartment and it’s so full of magic you can smell it. The level of intensity in this scene reminds me just what suspense is in prose, but sadly this moment is one of the few that has any build to it. One thing I will say The Hazel Wood brings to the table is the ability to suspend your disbelief. That is what fairytales and fiction are about after all, and what many are missing. For me, I like it when a world doesn’t explain itself; in fact, I prefer it that way. As a reader I find exposition to get in the way of story because an author feels the need to tell us about the world or make the world believable, and The Hazel Wood just throws you to the wolves and says have fun with it. This was the biggest satisfaction during my read, that the world felt genuine and real, like I could spot a character out in the street and not miss a step. In my notes I say something along the lines of it’s Stranger Things meets Alice in Wonderland, and it’s that level of belief in the world that makes The Hazel Wood hard for me to talk about. The Hazel Wood is hard to review because of the last half of the book. It reaches a point where I felt like I was reading a completely different book. This is where the trigger warnings should come into play. This is where I got lost and never really came back. I’m all for dark atmosphere and aesthetics, but this got too dark, too absurd, for me to follow. And there is a “story within a story” element going on later in The Hazel Wood, but it wasn’t earned. I guess that’s where I have a problem; the pay off isn’t worth trudging through the slop of darkness and bogged down characters with no development and jumpy plot twists to make it worth my while to read. If The Hazel Wood read more like the first half of the book, I would have bought it. Unfortunately, it meanders down a path I can’t follow into a dark place that I don’t feel like exploring. That’s about all I have to say on the subject. It had such high ambitions and was so close to achieving them, but The Hazel Wood fell in on itself before realizing and trying to dig itself out.
Ahoy there me mateys! This book was a slow-burning, dark, and atmospheric read. It felt like a Grimm's fairy-tale mixed with some Alice in Wonderland but was mostly set in our modern world. For all of the book's slow pacing, I somehow found meself mesmerized by the mystery of it all. Alice and her mom are always beset by bad luck and have led a fairly nomadic life. Alice's life has been heavily influenced by the tantalizing facts about her grandmother, Althea, even though they have never met. Ye see a young Althea wrote a famous children's book of fairy-tales and became a sensation. Yet the book is hard to get a hold of. It is a rare collector's item and is out of print. Alice has never been allowed to read it. The one time she tried she only got as far as the table of contents before her mom confiscated the volume. It was never seen again. Why are Alice and her mom always on the run? And what is so special about those stories? If ye read this novel ye can find out. Alice is a kinda quirky, if tad unlikable, character and her journey certainly is an interesting one. Most of the story takes place in a seemingly contemporary tale where the fantasy can be glimpsed in the seams and cracks outside of periphery vision. Those glimpses are enticing. Of course the fantasy elements increase as the story progresses and that was super fun. The only small quibble was the ending felt unsettled. But it fit the Grimm-like mood and so I was satisfied. Then, of course, I found out it is part of a series! I do think it can feel like a standalone though. I do wonder what adventures Alice will get into next. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for me honest musings. Arrr!
Excited to read more by this author!
This was a really interesting book. The interactions were so authentic and the language didn't stuffer to be too polite nor was it over the top. I want to read tales from the Hinterland now
Absolutely awesome!!The story gripped me and kept me. .. A story line normal with some dark and twisted turns...
I will start by saying - this is an incredibly talked about book pre-publication and despite me loving everything the synopsis detailed, I was a tad worried that, like other massively hyped novels, that it would be a let down - I needn't have been concerned, this book is magnificent. I have certainly noticed that it has polarised opinion quite a bit but I can't understand why as I wouldn't have changed anything about it, it was a fantastic read for January and the start of a whole new reading year. Also, a quick note of appreciation for the cover - absolutely gorgeous! I have worried a fair bit since finishing it about writing the review with my primary concern being doing the novel justice. I genuinely think this is one of those that you need to read as I don't think any review can convey the magic and enchanting nature of the story. It has managed to leave a lasting impression on me as I haven't stopped thinking about it since wrapping it up. I am still thinking about the upcoming books Albert is writing - 1) the sequel (The Hazel Wood #2) and 2) a companion book filled with the Fairytales of the Hinterland. Both of these I am going stir crazy for already! They seem like an eternity away. I'm now desperately searching for similar books to keep me entertained until these have been offered as ARC's or published. Main Characters - Alice is a steely-minded and tenacious girl who seems to have issues with her anger at many points during the novel. I admired her the most for the love she had for her mother Ella - she stopped at nothing to try and reach and rescue her despite feeling scared. I feel I would react in the same way if my mum went missing or was taken. Ella is Alice's "mother" and her and Alice have an amazing bond between them. This bond is a main focus of the book as it endures even when Ella disappears propelling Alice into a shadowy world. Finch is a boy from Alice's school who has been a big admirer of Tales of the Hinterland and of the mysterious Althea. Prose/Writing - Albert's writing is magical and engaging from the very beginning - it took no time at all to get into the story and be invested in its journey and outcome. Lush, lyrical and well structured with a flow that makes it difficult to put down, a beautiful piece of creativity. One thing I was told to expect was a change in the writing style after the 50% mark and I know that a few people have mentioned the change in their comments with me or in reviews. Whilst I do agree that there is a change and the prose is noticeably less descriptive I didn't experience a reduction in my enjoyment due to that. If you are a fan of darker fairytales (Grimm), YA and Mystery genres I wouldn't hesitate to reach for this one. I've purchased a copy for my bookshelf as I know I'll read it again before the new ones appear just to refresh. Well executed and simply mesmeric this is a novel that will knock your socks off! Albert's got IT! In spades. I would like to thank Penguin Random House Children's, Melissa Albert and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.