The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I should have definitely read more reviews on this book. I picked it up expecting a fantasy world more like GOT or Narnia to be the Hinterland, but really this fantasy world falls more under the dark fairy tales children used to be told. The ones without happy endings or any explanation.
The story basically follows a girl named Alice, who’s been constantly living on the road with her mother Ella. They can never seem to outrun their bad luck. Eventually that bad luck comes crashing into their ‘new and hopefully good life’ and kidnaps Ella, leaving Alice completely baffled. Her only lead is that The Hinterland took her mother.
The Hinterland is a fantasy place, written about by Alice’s grandmother (whom she has never met). Alice has only briefly glanced at the titles of her grandmothers book of short stories Tales from the Hinterland. The book itself is incredibly elusive, and it seems as though those that have read it are basically a cult. There is little to no information about the stories online, and yet it is very well known.
Alice teams up with Hinterland fanboy, Ellery Finch, who has read the book, to search for the Hazel Wood, a fabled place where Alice’s grandmother locked herself up in after writing Tales from the Hinterland. Surely they’ll find Ella there, right?
Along the way they start to see Hinterland in their world, and let me tell you, you do not want Hinterland in your world. Remember I said these were fairy tales where there aren’t happy endings?
To save spoilers, I’ll leave my own personal synopsis at that.
I was disappointed this wasn’t more like I was hoping, a single fantasy land, medieval in nature, with a happy ending in tow. It was rather a bunch of horrific fantasy fairy tale stories jumbled together or on the run. I’m also not a big fan of non-happy endings. Bittersweet ones are good though, this book at the actual end had a bittersweet one which I was satisfied with. I was just personally not head-over-heels for the fairy tales themselves.
Alice is an alright character, a bit rough and pouty, but not so much I disliked her. Finch I didn’t care much about, though I like where his story ended.
(view spoiler)[I did like the idea that Alice was an actual character, and that she had to break free of her story, that was very creative. (hide spoiler)].
I was also happy to see Firefly and Narnia mentioned in this book! Good to see some of the other things I like mentioned here. Overall it wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t have me hooked, and it only really got interesting for me about halfway through. There was some purple prose in here, but nowhere near as bad as in The Waking Forest.
Saw this book had a sequel to it, and I’m not all that inclined to read it. I honestly think this book is a good standalone, and was disappointed to see that this book went ‘the end’ but the sequel’s premise pretty much says ‘just kidding lol’. If the sequel were more focused on Finch’s adventures separate from Alice I would have been more interested. Who knows, I might read the follow up, but only if I get it as a bargain book for sure.
At the end of this particular book two Hinterland stories were provided as extra. Jenny and the Night Women was well told, dark, and sad. I found this one to be the better of the two provided. Isla waits was too long, had too much purple prose, and the ending I understood but could have been written better. I think the concept was good just not executed well.
I love fairy tales, but I would recommend reading The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic instead, I much prefer her short stories and her style of writing them.
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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert