Monday, June 15, 2020

Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

by Melissa Albert
Release Date: January 30th 2018
2018 Flatiron Books
Kindle Edition; 359 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250147905
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Fairy Tale
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

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.”

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 began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

My Thoughts
The Hazel Wood is one of those books that I tried really, really hard to like, but just didn't, in the end.  I hadn't read any of the reviews for this one until after I had finished it, but after seeing the variety of different review, I wasn't surprised.  It literally took me three tries to get into it, and the only reason I persevered is because I was offered an ARC of the second book in this series and thought I should read the first book before diving into the sequel.  There were some things I did like though, enough that I will consider trying the sequel to see if it redeems itself.

Part of the problem with this book, I think, was the marketing.  When I got the packaging, it was touted as a fantasy-type book, almost like a twisted fairy tale, and that is where I think everything went wrong.  Because as soon as you begin reading, you are in contemporary U.S.A., nothing fairy tale-like about it.  Once I understood what was happening, I actually didn't mind this part of the book as there were a lot of interesting elements, and it was intriguing trying to figure out who was who, and what was what.  What I didn't like was Alice herself; she was irritating as hell.  I can't tell you how annoying she was unless you've read the book.  And her anger issues, even when you realize why she has them. don't really work all that well into the book. In fact, it got to the point where I actually cringed at her behaviour and the way the author excused it; her behaviour almost hurt someone and all we got were excuses and poor little me behaviours that were just disgusting.  No, thank you.  I feel like the author lost a few threads of her story as she was developing Alice as a character which made that development seem all over the place.  Unfortunately, what it did was make Alice unlikable.

When we first meet Finch, I thought, finally, a character I could like, one that could maybe balance Alice and her awful development.  Unfortunately, the author wasted a golden opportunity here for some meaningful conversation and treated Finch as if everything could be pushed under a rug because he was rich.  And yes, you probably guessed it, he was the only coloured character in the story, too, at least the only one the author thought worth commenting on, several times.  Not impressed with how his character developed, and the only really good part, which could have developed into some meaningful conversation about racism, was disregarded as unimportant just because he was rich.  I should have counted the amount of times Alice told Finch to 'Shut up!' in this book.  That would have been more interesting. 

And then we get to the second half, and I'm like "What? What is this place?"  Something that could have been really cool turned into something that was...not.  And boy, it could have been sooooo cool.  I have to say the ideas were interesting, it just wasn't fleshed out enough.  And I really wish more of Althea's fairy tales had been included in the story as they were actually interesting, and I enjoyed them.

I found a lot of the story really hard to read, and I had to push myself to finish this book.  It's a shame as there were some good elements and this book had the potential to be really good.  I just couldn't connect to any of the characters, and the story was so disjointed it came down to something bad is chasing them, but if you keep running, it may never catch you, although if you yell at everyone, you may survive the gloaming.  The story was lacking in depth and complexity, relying too much on random strangeness to keep the plot going.  Unfortunately, when you put it all together, it just didn't work.  But, while this definitely wasn't for me, there are probably a lot of people who will enjoy this book and its twisted telling.  


  1. glad to see it is worth giving the second book a shot. i hope it works for you the second time around
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I will give the second book a shot even if I didn't necessarily like the first one. I don't always give up on series just because I didn't like the first one. If that were the case, I never would have continued the Malazan books and I would have missed out on some great reading.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.