Hello Readers & Writers,
Today I will be reviewing The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, publishing late January 2018. I received this title from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. There will be no spoilers so don’t click away.
I heard so much going into this read and I can say this book did not disappoint. As children, fairy-tales are supposed to be comforting stories that we read, that are passed down from generation to generation. It is usually when we’re older we discover the truth behind the stories and how not everything is as perfect as we thought. Reading The Hazel Wood was very similar to this experience. It took traditional fairy-tale elements, spun them on their head, and spat out creepy, alternative versions. Needless to say, that is no reason to not read it. If anything, that is the reason you should.
The book follows a teenager named Alice who hasn’t had the most stable life. Her and her mother, Ella, constantly move locations when bad luck shows itself. Alice has never known the feeling of a permanent home, but she has accepted this lifestyle. If anything, she is simply happy to have her mother around.
We learn that Alice is the granddaughter of Althea Proserpine, a woman who wrote a successful collection of fairytales, and received a cult like fame. Alice however has never met or seen the woman before. So when Alice receives news that Althea is dead, it is both a shocking and unexpected realization. She’ll never get to meet her grandmother, but she also has to wonder if her grandmother ever cared about her in the first place. Ella’s reaction is entirely different, one of relief almost. Alice doesn’t understand why, but she is given little time to process her mom’s reaction for she goes missing. Her only clue is a note that says to stay away from Hazel Wood.
It is after Alice receives the note that we plunge into a world of fantasy, darkness, and mystery. I found myself wanting to know more about Althea, but also the fairy-tales she created that took on such a following. We are given two major ones in the novel and I wanted to know them all after reading. They stick with you and you understand how Althea derived the following that she did. You can see where the seeds of obsession can grow.
Aside from the tales, we get vivid descriptions of scenery, delicious prose, and an overall haunting vibe that paints every word you read. You also get a teenager who wants to fight for the only person she has ever had. The motivations made me sympathize greatly with Alice as well as made me root for her to succeed no matter the obstacle, no matter what awaited her.
The biggest selling point of this book is the world that Melissa Albert creates and the subversion of a typical fairy-tale. She doesn’t guarantee a happy ending nor does she guarantee a predictable read from start to finish. What she does guarantee is stepping into a world very different from our own and one that plays on how much we can trust our reality. The noise you heard, the shadow you saw, the person that looks just the slightest bit odd – are they real or are they your imagination or are they something else entirely? Overall, I could barely put this book down and if you’re into a dark fantasy read with tropes that get squashed and moved around, this is it.
The Hazel Wood gets 5/5 icicles from me. You’ll understand this reference once you dive in and read.
Do it. Do it now.