The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
***This book was provided by NetGalley and Flatiron Books in exchange for my honest review***
As one can read in the summary, the main plot of “The Hazel Wood” is for the main character, Alice, to find her mother who has been stolen away. I don’t believe Alice is completely shocked by this though because when she was a young girl she was attempted to be kidnapped by a man that she had originally thought to be her father. They’ve been living on the road ever since she can remember as a very young girl - always on the run from bad luck. The only other family Alice has known of his her grandmother, but she has never met her which she doesn’t find out why until later in the story. Anyways, her grandmother wrote a gruesome fairy tale novel, very much similar to the Brothers Grimm, that Alice’s mother has tried to keep her from reading ever since she can remember. Her mother has never liked Alice’s grandmother either so they’ve been driving place to place their whole lives trying to stay hidden away.
Alice’s fellow classmate, Ellery, has reason to believe that her mother has been taken away by characters from the Hinterland - a dark and disturbing place which is the setting of her grandmother’s book. Throughout most of the novel, Alice and Ellery are following clues and signs left behind by these supposed characters so she can try to find her missing mother.
This novel was slow to start in action, but with good reason. Due to Alice having never read The Hazel Wood, we have to understand her backstory to give us a bigger picture of her life on the road. I quite enjoyed the backstory of our main character - it left some loops of information out that gave some mystery to the book. As I got further along in the book I think the story could have used a little more “spicing up” in the action department. There are multiple fairy tales in her grandmother’s novel, yet you only see a few of them referenced in the entire book. If you have that many stories I think an author should put them to good use for a fantasy novel such as this one.
I very much enjoyed the characters, especially the dynamic between Alice and Ellery. Ellery was the closest thing to a friend that Alice has ever had due to her life always on the run. You get to see that friendship bloom as well as the need for Alice to trust Ellery in a world that she has no one left with her mom being taken away. Although I felt bad for something that happens between Alice and Ellery towards the middle-ish part of the story, but I will leave the spoilers out for readers wanting to pick this book up!
My number one favorite element of this book was the metaphorical prose of the story. This author is very good with words and describing everyday common daily happenings from Alice’s point of view. It made me see things in another light for having a way with words. I loved this so much!
The many shocking twists and turns towards the end of the book will leave readers surprised. There are quite a few loose ends that the author presents to readers in which gives us a better understanding of the story. The nature of the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic to me, in my opinion. I feel as if something “more” should have popped up in the end for readers to leave more to the imagination or to give us some reason to believe there will be a sequel to this book (which according to GoodReads there is).
In the middle of the novel, there were so many small scenes happening at once that I’d forget who came into the picture or what happened before so I was forced to reread the previous passage to understand what was happening. Other than that overall, I think this book was very well written. “The Hazel Wood” was very much like a story of Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole with a mix of a YA fantasy version of the film “Inception”. If readers like these concepts I believe other readers will love this fairy tale story! I give this book a rating of 4 stars!