The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: January 30th 2018 by Flatiron Books
Source: Raincoast Books

The Hazel Wood features a girl who does not always know what to do with the anger that grips her, a mother who goes missing, and a dead grandmother. Now dead grandmothers aren’t very much out of the norm in fictional world but dead grandmothers in possession of what seems like an enchanted estate are. Here is the 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.

The book is sharply written with immense style and skill, the characters are complex, well hewn creatures, and the fantasy woven in wonderfully. Alice is not the easiest protagonist to follow; she is angry all the time and with good reason, but her love for her mother makes her relatable. But what makes Alice someone I can root for is Finch. Finch is the only other character in the book who takes root in the narrative and engages the reader more deeply than the other transient side characters.

Look, I enjoyed the book a lot until things went a bit haywire at the end. I can tell you exactly what happened but that would be a spoiler. At the end though, I admire the book for its technical finesse and the beautiful writing but my emotions were no longer as fully engaged as they had been at the beginning of the book.

The Hazel Wood presents a lush world peopled by creatures straight from a fairytale collection. You will either be with Alice or not. The ending is a lot more contemplative than I expected it to be and I liked the book for that. At its heart, the book questions a person’s personal narrative and whether we can take control of our own stories and lead them to the ending we want.

I will definitely be checking out the next one in this…series ( I think it is a series).