Okay, guys… here goes nothing. This review is a tough one for me to write for a variety of reasons. I truly have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. As my fellow reviewers know, it’s especially hard to review a book when you’re not quite sure how you feel about it. So I am going to do my best to give an in-depth, spoiler free, and coherent review of The Hazel Wood.
Here’s what you need to know:
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.
Here are my thoughts in the most logical way I can put them:
The Hazel Wood started out brilliantly for me. I was so impressed, I felt sure that this would end up as one of my favorite books. I’m turning to Twitter to illustrate some of that for me-
The writing was beautiful, I felt the story developing nicely, and the characters seemed fascinating- my interest was definitely piqued.
Then, as the story went on, I felt the plot and the world becoming more confounded; the characters became more distant. The characterisation was consistent and felt realistic at least, but that still didn’t lend me any desire to actually enjoy the characters. At about 30%, I was reading for the intrigue not for the enjoyability.
By 50%, I had the sinking feeling that this wasn’t going to turn around for me. I was right. The writing was wonderful throughout; I really admire Melissa Albert as a wordsmith. But the world-building? The plot? By that point, I was feeling pretty lost.
The book ended and I was left with this awful feeling of … I don’t know… incompletion?? After giving myself some time to digest, I came to the conclusion that while I understood what happened in the book, I didn’t get it. This is what I was able to come up with for Goodreads:
Overall, I stand by my initial reaction. I will say that it wasn’t necessarily the worldbuilding that was rushed at the end, more the progression of events. Big things happened in the latter portion of the book. We find answers and reach our climax… Yet it all feels very vague. I’m not sure this even makes sense, I hope it does, but in essence the events just became confounded and underwhelming.
I gave this book THREE stars.
In fairness, this is only my take on the book. I’ve heard rave reviews, and I know this book worked for a lot people. I wanted it to work for me too. I can be picky about fairy-tales, so I’m hoping all of you will have a better experience with this one. I also don’t want to undersell this book because it had some great strengths. The Hazel Wood is a rather haunting, creepy story. The writing is exquisite. The characterization and dialogue feel very realistic and natural. The story is interesting throughout. I think fans of dark fairytales could really enjoy this one. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Splintered by A.G. Howard. The Hazel Wood definitely stands apart from anything else I’ve read, but I think if you enjoyed the vibe of Splintered, you may really enjoy The Hazel Wood.
As always, thank you guys for taking the time to read this! If you have read The Hazel Wood I would love to hear your thoughts. If you plan to read it, I’d love to hear that too 🙂