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10 July, 2018

[Review] The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Release Date: 30 January, 2018
Publisher: McMillian Audio
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Contemporary Fantasy/Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9781427293534
Edition: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Written: 16 June, 2018
Summary: 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.

See more by Melissa Albert at her Website.



Fairy tales have become a thing of popular culture, though they’ve always been popular in a way. More contemporary stories that have been retold by Disney tend to sugarcoat and change elements so that the work remains “appropriate for children”. Fairy tales however have been used more frequently as cautionary tales, reminding us of why it’s not okay to talk to strangers or walk alone in the dark.

Alice is a girl who always wants to be normal, but nothing is never normal for her. Bad luck seems to trail Alice and her mother wherever they go. Having lived on the road for as long as Alice can remember, she struggles to fit into the life that’s come around after the supposed death of her grandmother Althea. Her mother, Ella, has married a businessman she met while she was working as a waitress and the pair have moved into his upper East Side apartment in New York. Still, she’s unable to shake the uneasy feeling that the bad luck isn’t over with yet. Alice is proved right when disaster strikes, her mother disappears, her stepfather and stepsister are kidnapped and returned only to hold Alice at gunpoint in the entrance of the home since the father blames her for the trouble.

Without a place to be and without her mother, Alice is forced to call on the help of a classmate, Ellery Finch, to try and find her way to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s sprawling estate that she and her mother inherited at the death of her grandmother. Determined to find her mother, Alice embarks on the quest to find the answers and the truth. In part psychological thriller, park twisted fairytale, Alice’s mission blindsides her to the fact that Ellery has his own reasons for helping her, only to find out when they’re almost to the Hazel Wood that he sold her out to some of the other characters from the Hinterlands, the book that made her grandmother famous and full of twistedly dark fairytales.

Eventually, Alice does stumble upon the truth. She is part of the Hinterlands stories, Alice Three Times, and her “mother” Ella, stole her away from the woods that surrounded the Hazel Wood in an effort to save Alice from her fate. Thus she broke the story, leaving everyone in Alice’s story broken except for a single character who tried to return Alice when she was 6 to break the story for good. While she meets with the omnipotent character of the Storyweaver, Alice demands to know if there is a way to break her story and to escape. The Weaver, of course, assures her that there is, but inquires why she would want to when she can live in a predictable and normal life for herself in the Hinterlands.

Tricked into returning to the place where everything started, Alice struggles to fight against returning to the story, but ultimately succumbs. For an unspecified period of time, Alice remains trapped in her story, struggling to remember and to break free of her fate.

Albert’s storytelling is a fiery thing, capturing the reader in a rich and reality twisting story. She manages to engage readers with twists and turns that one wouldn’t expect. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Albert’s world of the Hinterlands and how Alice and the other story characters who escaped the Hinterlands will survive in the reality of our world.

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