This is a spoiler free review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, the first book in The Hazel Wood Duology.
I gave this book a 3/5 stars. The beginning of this story reads as a contemporary with an urban fantasy aspect introduced later in the story.
“Look until the leaves turn red, Sew the worlds up with thread, If your journey’s left undone, Fear the rising of the sun.”
This novel follows Alice Proserpine as she and her classmate Finch work together in order to rescue Alice’s mother after she was captured and taken to the Hinterland- A fairytale land in which Alice’s grandmother, Althea’s story is set.
I loved the idea of this novel, however, the story itself did not clash well with me. The writing was alright, but the plot felt a little all over the place. The pacing of the story was slow, and at some parts even dragged on to a point in which I found myself kind of bored.
The fantasy elements took a while to become introduced and at the start of the novel there were a few info dumps.
I really disliked the main character Alice. She was reckless, insensitive, and just plain rude. She is physically violent towards other characters without warrant and nearly killed a person who was helping her because she was feeling guilty about her own poor choices. The only person in the book she ‘respects’ is her mother, who she has also been violent towards.
When Alice is called out on her offensive nature by Finch she immediately deflects and starts an argument with him because she is unable to face the truth of her insensitivity.
Finch, the classmate who helps Alice along on this journey is someone I wanted to like. He was patient and caring, yet his character completely fell flat for me. He felt so one-dimensional that it was hard to feel any emotions towards his character. There were many moments throughout the story that I wanted to feel something towards Finch, but due to this disconnection I couldn’t.
For all her life, bad luck seemed to follow Alice and her mother Ella. When Alice’s reclusive grandmother, Althea Proserpine the author of Tales From The Hinterland- A dark fairytale collection that has become near impossible to find- dies alone in her estate, The Hazel Wood, Ella believes their bad luck is behind them. That is until Ella is stolen away into the supernatural world of Hinterland leaving only a message to Alice behind. “Stay away from The Hazel Wood”
Now Alice, along with the help of her classmate Ellery Finch, embarks on a journey to rescue her mother from the Hinterland and to try to stop everything from going horribly wrong.
I really wanted to like The Hazel Wood, I had heard so many great things about the story. Yet the whole time while reading it I felt disconnected from the characters and almost confused by the plot. There were parts of the book I did like, for instance the Hinterland fairytale chapters from Althea’s book were really interesting but there were so few throughout the novel and I would have loved more. (I believe there were two) As well, I did like the ending of the novel, however, I do not plan on continuing the series because I believe the ending to this first book was satisfactory.
I do not believe that this was a bad book, I personally just think it was not for me. I love the idea of dark fairytales and being swept away into that fantasy land and this book had that, but it fell flat for me.
If you plan read this book, I wish you better luck with it and hope you enjoy it more than I did.
Disclosure: I received a download of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.