Publisher: Penguin Platform (Penguin UK)
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery
Source: ARC (from YALC)
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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.
I am writing this less than 24hrs after finishing The Hazel Wood and I am not entirely sure I can write a calm and articulate review but I’ll try.
As the Goodreads summary above states, The Hazel Wood follows Alice and her mother, Ella, who have been plagued by bad luck for as long as they can remember. This means that they have to move around a lot since standing still only attracts more bad luck – not only to them, but to those around them. That is until they receive a letter stating that Althea, Alice’s grandmother, has died. Ella takes this as a sign that all the bad things will stop and they can finally live normal lives. Unfortunately for them, that is anything but true. They let their guard down and that’s when Ella goes missing. Snatched away by dark figments from the Hinterland, Alice will do anything to get her back. Even if it means pairing up with one of her grandmother’s ‘superfans’. Even if it means ignoring her mother’s warning to stay away from the Hazel Wood.
The Hazel Wood is captivating from the very first chapter. It’s written in a way that manages to exude an air of classic fairytales while also incorporating modern/pop culture references like Harry Potter and Lin-Manuel Miranda. I don’t know how, but it was simultaneously goosebumps creepy and funny. Every aspect of this story was brilliant, from the in-depth world-building, to the sinister atmosphere created by the weaving of fairytales. The fairytales in The Hazel Wood are less Disney and more Brothers Grimm, brutal and unrelenting in its execution.
Alice was a complex and somewhat unlikeable character for me at first. She has anger issues and this comes out quite a lot in the way she treats people around her. I couldn’t tell if I was rooting for her or not at first but her character arc in the story revealed the reasons she acted the way she did. A character that I loved was Ellery Finch, the superfan that tags along for the ride. Though he (maybe) has his own agenda for doing so. I was pleasantly surprised to see Melissa Albert briefly touch on discrimination by figures of authority toward people of colour, which I was not expecting at all.
I know I’ve already mentioned the world-building but I just cannot emphasise how brilliant this was. It was just so unique yet so vivid from the descriptions provided. I could almost imagine myself stumbling around the Halfway Wood.
Overall, The Hazel Wood has to be one of my top 5 favourite reads of 2017. It just has to. It was deliciously sinister, breathtaking in its prose and utterly captivating. I honestly wish I had more!
Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the absolute beauty that is the UK cover?