ARC review, book review, young adult

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (ARC Review)

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillan Publishers)
Date published: January 30, 2018

Physical copies of this book were kindly provided by Raincoast Books (ARC), and Indigo Books & Music Inc. (finished copy), in exchange for an honest review.

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 Review –

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I had a very interesting experience with The Hazel Wood. I had a very specific vision for how I thought that the book would go and feel like, before I read the first page. I’m not sure what created this impression for me, except for maybe the synopsis, and my previous experiences with other books? And the writing style just encouraged my assumption about the book … at first. But as I continued reading, I realized that the story would go and feel different (which is not a bad thing!)

I can say, with certainty, that this was one of the most unique stories I have ever read. The writing was lyrical, and raw all at once, and just overall satisfying for me to read. It felt very fresh for me, because I have not come across a style quite like it in any of the other books that I’ve read (and much less in YA.) The Hazel Wood was dark, and ominous, and magical. The characters were great, and very well-developed. And I could even appreciate the characters who we were supposed to dislike in the story! I also really liked the main character and narrator of The Hazel Wood, Alice, despite her being very angry, cold, abrupt, and mean. I understood her frustration, and really rooted for her, and hoped that things would turn out well for her in the end.

As for the story, it was very interesting and unpredictable. I also think it’s funny that most of this book did not go or feel as I had initially expected, but that once I got used to its feel and style, everything changed, and it did turn out feeling more like I had expected. I’m sorry if that sounds very cryptic! This is what happens when I try to explain things while also trying to avoid writing spoilers, haha. What I can say, though, is that I absolutely loved the fairytales in this book, because they were unique, while also reminding me of the dark Romanian / Eastern European fairytales that I grew up on. The stories in The Hazel Wood are dark, chilling, and nothing like the fairytales that I came into contact with once we moved out of Eastern Europe.

This book was quite enjoyable to read, as Alice took me with her on quite the adventure. I love Albert’s imagination, and that she shared this story with us, and I greatly look forward to the next book to come in the series (2019), as well as the companion novel or novella that has also been listed on Goodreads (2020). I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy urban fantasy, as well as dark fairytales!

– The Author –

Melissa is the founding editor of the B&N Teen Blog and an editor at B&N Reads. She reads books, worries about strangers’ dogs (they look thirsty), and gets mad at people who block the escalator. You can find her on Twitter @mimi_albert.

– Purchase the Book –


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