This review is spoiler free!
On a recent excursion to Pittsburgh, PA, I discovered this novel featured on the YA shelf of an indie bookstore. Visitors of the shop are given the opportunity to take a notecard and write a “mini review” of their favorite novel to encourage others to read it too. This novel contained a rather convincing notecard, so I decided to give it a chance (and I truly believe that you should, too!)
Melissa Albert’s writing is extremely engaging, which I admire as a fellow writer! I’ve always struggled with descriptive word choice (you can read my post, “On Writing: A Sense of Place”, here!). I aspire to capture details in the same way as Albert does on the page, to bring my stories and fictional worlds to life.
Aside from the exceptional writing, this novel is certainly unique. With elements of dark fantasy, fairytales, and a bit of mystery mixed in, I had trouble putting this one down. I’ve read several novels that have turned out to be complete let-downs, but this was very far from that category.
Seventeen-year-old Alice Crewe and her mother, Ella, have spent her entire life on the run from bad luck. That is, until the day they receive the letter announcing the death of her grandmother, Althea Proserpine, owner of the Hazel Wood estate. Althea is famous for having written a series of dark fairytales that take place in the Hinterland. Alice has never read her grandmother’s book due to its rarity.
When Alice’s mother is kidnapped, she’s left with a single page from the book and a warning from her mother to steer clear of the Hazel Wood. Alice chooses to enlist the help of her superfan classmate, Ellery Finch, who is able to utilize his knowledge of Althea and her stories to help them reach the Hinterland in search of Ella.
There are so many twists and turns that launch the plot forward and keep you on your toes. I was able to sympathize with Alice throughout the course of the novel, with hopes that she would find her mother and finally obtain her happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, there are a lot of creepy and insanely imaginative things that stand in her way, but that’s just another reason to love this book.
The magical realism of The Hazel Wood is utter perfection. The experience of reading it has been enough to keep me gripping to its plot and its characters for days.
Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
Seriously, friends. Give this one a read.
For those who are interested, here’s the full 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.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Plot: Alice sets out on a quest into the Hinterland in search of her mother
POV: First person
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars