For What It's Worth

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert



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. ~
Goodreads

Source: Finished copy provided by the publisher via ALA

Review: I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for a few years. Mixed reviews had me hesitant to read it though. I hadn’t realized it was an Alice in Wonderland inspired story and I’m not a huge fan of re-tellings.  Then I saw my pal Lauren’s positive review and decided to clear it from the shelves one way or another. I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would despite a few quibbles here and there.

Alice and her mom Ella have always been on the run. Every time *bad luck* nips at their heels they pack up everything and move on. Now with Ella married to a wealthy man, Ella and Alice think they can settle down. But Alice gets the sense that bad luck is catching up with her again after a few creepy encounters with people from her past and when she goes to tell her mom – she finds her step father in a rage and her mother gone.

With only her author grandmother, Althea’s, infamous fairy tales to go on, Alice enlist the help of Althea superfan, Ellery Finch, to find the one place her mother told her to stay away from – the Hazel Wood.

The Hazel Wood is super imaginative. A world where Alice and Finch encounter an eclectic (often dangerous) cast of characters, un-spooling stories, stories remade and long hidden secrets – all while the author weaves various fairy tales and Alice’s own past together.

It got quite dark at times - which I loved – and I had fun with the story overall but Albert never really developed several of the characters she introduced. Finch and Ella for example – are major characters and pivotal to Alice’s arc – but come and go as needed for Alice’s story despite, honestly, being more interesting than Alice. Finch, in particular, is woefully underused – and yet portrayed as a potential love interest. Albert also introduces several tales, drops them, and then circles back which was an interesting choice but doesn’t necessarily lend you to getting invested in anything. I forgot a few threads until they came full circle and had to go back and think oh yeah! Now I get why she brought that up earlier.

I’m not sure the payoff was worth the journey but I enjoyed the trip if that makes any sense. This was especially good on audiobook.

I see there is a sequel, but this one tied up quite nicely and could be read as a stand alone. No cliffhangers but plenty of possibilities. Which leads me to one more observation.

The Hazel Wood had a fresh take on fairy tales but also bears a lot of similarity to Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Albert introduces the concept of “doorways” that lead to fantasy/fairy tale lands – which is the basis of McGuire’s series - but is a little less ambitious, creatively, or as emotionally resonate – as McGuire’s. Although, Albert's book is more action packed and has a faster pace.

If you read The Hazel Wood and loved it or thought I liked it but what if it had higher stakes, more diversity and was even darker??? Then give the Wayward Children Series a try as well.

18 comments:

  1. Hmmm... I don't do a lot of retellings, although sometimes I finish a book and find out later it is classified as a retelling. I've heard great things about Wayward - but I'm not a big YA reader. Thanks!

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    1. That's kind of how I feel. I didn't know this was re-telling when I picked it up lol It's a very loose re-telling and felt more like a take on fairy tales in general.

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  2. Sounds like you enjoyed it overall.

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    1. Yeah - it wasn't bad. I doubt I'll read the sequel but I don't regret reading this one.

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  3. I enjoy retellings and even the darker ones. Hadn't read the other series, but it always caught my attention. Too bad about the under-developed stuff, but glad it was overall good.

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    1. It was a worth the read. Especially if you like darker retellings.

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  4. I didn't know this was Alice in wondeland inspired either. I like the whole dark fairy tales and doorway to other realms thing- that's a trope I always like. Glad this mostly worked even if it wasn't perfect. I am tempted to give this a shot.

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    1. It was not bad! I doubt I'll continue with it but I liked it overall.

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  5. I'm glad you liked it overall. It's definitely one of those hit or miss books for a lot of people, but I definitely liked it more than I thought I would. I loved the grandmother's stories, and yes, I do wish there had been more with Finch!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Same. I hadn't expected much at all or to even hate it so I was pleasantly surprised even if it wasn't a WOW book.

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  6. I don't read retellings or YA these days but I totally love the artwork on the book cover. That style is something that really appeals to me.

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    1. The book is gorgeous in person! It honestly didn't even feel like a retelling - more fairytale inspired.

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  7. There was so much chatter about this book when it first released but it never really caught my attention. I like the fact that it's a Alice retelling though. That'd be a plus point from my perspective.

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    1. It's not really my kind of book so it's hard for me to tell if it succeeds on that front. I liked it more than I thought I would but I doubt I'll read the sequel.

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  8. More at stake, sure, that would be good. McGuire sure has that down.

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  9. I loved this review! Despite feeling annoyed at the very thought of retellings (sorry LOL), I was tempted to pick this one up...but the "potential love interest" thing is keeping me on the fence. Then again, it's interesting that you're drawing a comparison with Wayward Children...though the latter wins.

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  10. Awesome review! I didn't know this was a retelling going into it, but like you, enjoyed the darker bits! :)

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  11. From what you have said you might like the second book better. I wanted more Hinterland and only about 50%, maybe even less, of the book is set there. I'm anxiously awaiting the book of Hinterland fairytales which is coming out later this year (I think). Thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨

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