REVIEW: The Hazel Wood

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

What happens when stories aren’t just stories? When bad luck is more than a superstition? When running for your life becomes about more than just escaping the darkness? The Hinterland. That’s what.

I walked into this blind. Literally only going off of vague hype I’d seen on GoodReads and Twitter and the pictures of the gorgeous cover I’d seen on Instagram. So when NetGalley approved me for an advanced copy, I was thrilled. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

The Story

Alice and her mother, Ella, live the lives of fugitives on the run, but Alice has never truly known why. Her grandmother is a famous author, a real life cult classic, and yet Ella does everything she possibly can to keep Alice away from that live. At the start of the novel, we find Alice in New York City, her mother married off to a rich prick of a man and things seemingly alright. But then Ella goes missing and Harold (Alice’s step-father) has lost his mind. Suddenly Alice and her casual school friend, Finch, find themselves on a fantasy fairy hunt to find her mother and figure out what this Hinterland “cult” really is.

Now the book Alice’s grandmother is famous for is mentioned to be a collection of dark fairy tales that are sometimes retold by other characters. Whenever this happened, the hair on the back of neck stood up. Not in a way that means the stories are “scary” but their unsettling and gruesome in a way that only the Grimm’s stories can compare.

The Characters

Alice is an angry girl. Very angry. In fact, angry is probably a milder way of going about saying she’s a bit of a bitch to people around her. It sounds like that would be out of place or that I don’t like her, but if you take into consideration that she has moved hundreds of times all her life, never settling down or making friends, it makes sense that she would have some sociability problems. Aside from that, the progression of the story makes everything clear when it comes to our protagonist’s personality.

I don’t want to talk too much about the other characters, but I’ll mention Finch since he’s our other lead. Finch is the epitome of rich hipster, but without the douche factor. He’s sweet, intelligent, and loves books to the same degree as Alice does. There is also a selfless quality about him even at parts where it’s clear he is acting for his own interests rather than Alice’s. If I had to pick between the two, I would say I like Finch more than Alice, but that is hardly an argument worth having as both have their roles to play, and play them they do.

Issues [spoilers]

I have two issues with this book that, upon reflection, seriously bother me. Finch is the only character of colour mentioned in the novel, and this fact bothers me especially when Alice decides she wants to pick a fight with a police officer. When they finally pull away, Finch confronts Alice on her reckless behaviour, pointing out how police tend to already be suspicious of those who aren’t white. Alice brushes this off and although her inner monologue tells us that she knows she shouldn’t talk to Finch as such, it doesn’t change the uncomfortable forwardness of her white privilege. I still like both characters, but I feel this issue could have been handled better.

The second issue I had was with the ending. With Finch staying behind after miraculously coming back from the dead, I don’t know what there is to do in the second book set to come out in 2019. It’s not a major issue, but it just felt off to me. Along with the “passports” Hinterland villagers now possess to travel back and forth through worlds.

Conclusion ★★★★½

In the end I give this book 4.5 out of 5. I loved the world, the story, the characters. I finished it incredibly quickly and honestly can’t wait for book two. Yes I had a problem or two, but I can’t wait to see what Melissa Albert can come up with next. Creepy, detailed, and complex, I really enjoyed The Hazel Wood and all it’s messed up wonders.


Author: Melissa Albert
January 30th 2018
Flatiron Books

Summary: 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 away―by 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.”

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