Harsh, sharp, and unflinching, The Hazel Wood is everything a dark fairy tale should be.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Synopsis: 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. (From Goodreads)
I am ashamed to say that I put off reading The Hazel Wood because I had heard not the best things about it. And oh my, does this book prove all the naysayers wrong. I went into this book, not sure what to expect, but what I got was the exact kind of modern fairy story I like.
First, let’s start with Alice, our angry protagonist. Alice is unlike many of the female YA characters I’ve read lately and I loved that about her. Alice has anger issues and is full of raw explosions of emotion. She is bitter and a bit jaded and completely comfortable in it. There is something so stark about her and it is truly refreshing to see a different style of character in a YA fantasy book.
What I loved most about the book were the settings: New York and the Hinterland. The Hazel Wood perfectly balances the real world with the Hinterland, with dashes of crossover throughout. I also liked that this story didn’t focus heavily on fairy court politics, but instead on fairy tales and how they come to life. Interspersed through the book are the short stories of the Hinterland that Alice’s grandmother wrote, which adds a whole other level of depth and atmosphere.
And while I’m mentioning atmosphere, let’s talk about how dark this book is. It is raw and violent, but it never goes over the edge. It still classifies as YA, but it skirts the line at times. I feel that there are many teenagers other there though, that will appreciate a darker, angrier story. Not every YA book needs to be about a special girl who overthrows the government. We need stories of the angry girl who fights for her right to live.
The Hazel Wood is not your traditional YA story, which works for and against the book. One thing I’ve realized after reading the book and thinking back on other’s opinions that I read in the past, is that The Hazel Wood is a very devise book. If you go into it, expecting a rehash of fae stories like The Cruel Prince or A Court of Thorns and Roses, you will be disappointed. But if you want a dark tale with a unique protagonist, The Hazel Wood is what you are looking for.