The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

When I read the synopsis of The Hazelwood, I was intrigued. I saw reviews mention ‘fairytale’ and ‘twisted’ and thought this was the perfect book for what I was in the mood for at that moment.  I’ve been reading classics, poetry and literary fiction continuously for the last few months and I needed something dark. The Hazelwood sounded perfect.

Alice, a seventeen year old girl, and her mother have been living what could be described as a nomadic lifestyle. They are followed by bad luck and has to move every few months. This is largely due to her grandmother, an author of a book of dark fairytales, who she has never met. The book and author has a cult following and fan base that Alice have been warned to look out for by her mother, Ella.  Probably for good reason, until one day they received news that the ageing author has passed on and believed that their luck will be changing. Unfortunately, it changed for the worst…

In the aftermath of her grandmother’s death, Alice finds that the fictional world called Hinterland in which the fairytales were set were not fictional, but based on fact. One of the characters from Hinterland abducts Ella and although she was warned to stay away from Hazel Wood (the place where her grandmother stayed), Alice sets out to find her mother. And she enlists the help of a friend who happens to be a huge fan of the stories. The type of person who her mother told her to stay away from. Assuming the only way to get to Hinterland, Alice and her friend Finch sets off into the Hazel Wood.

I found this story to be interesting and I loved the magical and fairytale element to it. Even more so when suddenly the world and the ‘people’ that inhabits it turns out to be real. The best part of the book for me was the pacing of the story that kept me, as a reader, interested and wanting to pick up the book every chance I get. The mystery was intriguing. What was the Hinterland all about? Why did her grandmother stay in The Hazel Wood as a recluse? Was she scared? Was she protecting her daughter?

The downside of the novel however were the main character’s ignorance about social justice issues. That annoyed me more than her personality. I will say that I wanted to know more about the grandmother and how she got involved in this other world. All in all, if you’re in the market for a bit of a dark fairytale, you’ll find it picking this book up. However, it’s not as dark and twisted I’d thought it be. It was a good read, but it wasn’t amazing.

  • god, the moment when she and Finch are in the car and that police officer stops them and then Alice acts like an absolute asshole….. I just couldn’t like her, at all. She destroyed the book for me.

    • That’s exactly the moment I was referring to. Like ok, you wanna act like a brat, but she was genuinely upset that he “just sat there” and when he spelled it out for her…. I don’t even remember if she apologized. A very good job was done to make her an unlikeable character 🙂