Jan 22, 2018

ARC Review--The Hazel Wood 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.

I received this ARC from the festivities at BFest last year in 2017 for pure enjoyment purposes. I was in no way compensated for this review.

I was all kinds of crazy excited for Melissa Albert’s debut, The Hazel Wood! It screamed fairy tale book all over! The cover is just gorgeous and bespeaks of the fairy tale delights (or not so delights as real fairy tales run kind of dark) ahead! While I found the book to be interesting for sure, I wasn’t as swept away as I would’ve hoped for. I’m not sure how to describe what I mean, but I will do my best.

Alice and her mother Ella have been moving from place to place ever since Alice could remember. They always seem to be running from bad luck of some kind that continues to chase them around. Just as Alice thinks things might be settling down when her mother marries a man and they move into his apartment suite, the bad luck comes back! Alice comes home to find her family gone and it’s not until her stepfather and stepsister return with a story of being taken and that Alice must go to the Hazel Wood if she wants to get her mother back that the crazy adventure truly begins!

The Hazel Wood is the name of the estate where her mother grew up for a time and it’s where her grandmother lived and wrote the stories that became known as Tales from the Hinterland. This was a book of fairy tales, not the ones we all know and love, but a completely sort. Odd thing is, try as Alice might, she cannot find a copy of the book anywhere and she tried to find it once upon a time when she learned her grandmother wrote them. I would’ve thought it would be interesting to actually get to read these tales. It might have even helped with my reading if I had a better background on things, for this story sort of revolves around this elusive book.

Alice starts a journey to get to the elusive Hazel Wood, for no one really knows where it’s at. There’s plenty of secrets in this book. Joining her in her journey is a fellow classmate, Ellery Finch. Ellery knows a lot about Tales from the Hinterland as he too was a bit obsessed with the book growing up and he had a copy long ago before it was stolen. It seems though that their journey will be anything but easy as they hit roadblocks at every turn!

This book was a certain kind of weird. It’s almost an enjoyable sort of weird too! Again, I really feel like if I had known more about the Tales from the Hinterland, I would’ve been able to understand things better. I love fairy tales, so when I see certain elements from the variety of tales I’ve read, I’m able to get a better understanding of where this story is headed. Since Tales from the Hinterland is a fictional book from a fictional book there’s really no source for what they are made of. True, Ellery knows the tales backwards and forwards and will relate them to Alice at certain points, but there is the occasional interruption and truly, this drove me mad!!!

If you’re expecting there to be a romance building between Alice and Ellery, well, you’d be sort of wrong. There may be some fleeting feelings and moments between them, but soon other things start to happen and well…there just really wasn’t any romance at all in this book. Which I thought was sort of odd since it was fairy tale like in essence. I mean, a good chunk of fairy tales revolve around a romantic kind of love. Not all of them, true, and in this one we do see those other kinds of love, so that was nice in a sense too.

I truly think the thing that kept me from giving this one 5 stars was that I knew nothing of the Tales from the Hinterland, other than what Ellery knew. Maybe that was part of the point, as Alice never got to read them either, but it just made things a bit more confusing for me as a reader because I wasn’t sure what was really happening in a sense. Things definitely got muddled for me in more ways than one. Again, though, I did enjoy this story in some ways. The Hazel Wood was still fascinating and dark and beautifully told. I just feel like as a reader if I knew of the Tales of the Hinterland, I could’ve understood The Hazel Wood a bit more. Totally weird, right? Wanting to read a fake book in order to understand the book that mentions said fake book?

The Hazel Wood is still remarkable storytelling though! It’s a dark, twisted tale that will keep you guessing at everyone’s intentions. For we already know not to trust the people within fairy tales, but in reality it’s harder to tell who’s trustworthy and who’s not. If Melissa were to ever do a bonus addition that let us read these mystical Tales from the Hinterland, I’d be all over that! And possibly even willing to do a re-read of this one! Which coming from me, as you know, is BIG!! This is most definitely a book all lovers of fairy tales should read! It contains the classic elements we know and love and it is a truly magical read in essence, if a little befuddling at times. I might just be overanalyzing things too much as I read.

Overall Rating 4/5 stars

The Hazel Wood releases January 30, 2018 



  1. I have heard so many mixed things about this one that I haven't picked it up but I'm so glad that you enjoyed it! I don't know how I feel about not knowing about the Tales of Hinterland while being crucial to the story as it seems... hmm I'll probably pick this one up as an audiobook.

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  2. I was surprised by the lack of romance in this one, but it didn't ruin the experience for me. I saw that there was going to be a sequel so many Finch's story will be elaborated on.

    I loved the storytelling as well, Albert is truly talented!

  3. Yours is the second review I've read today that says this book wasn't all the hype it seems to be (I guess I should've known since most hyped books turn out this way). I'm glad you were still able to enjoy it despite the missing tales! I think I'll be putting this one aside for now.

  4. I love dark, twisted stories so I think I might enjoy this! But it's a pity about the romance :( Or lack of. And sorry you were a bit disappointed with the book overall!

  5. Sorry that this one wasn't quite as good as you thought. Sometimes it's hard to live up to all the hype.

  6. I definitely wanted to read Tales from the Hinterland myself. I do agree with you that the writing was really beautiful, but all those elusive fairy tales left me wanting more.

  7. I have heard a lot about this book, but I have to have a strong romance in my books. I am a romance girl! Thank you for the review

  8. 4/5 stars is an excellent rating! I'm so happy you got to enjoy this book, even with the whole thing with the tales. The Hazel Wood is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and I cannot wait to get the chance to read it. I was definitely sold by the cover - such a beautiful one! It screams fantasy, but that dark background certainly gives us a spooky element. And I'm a sucker for dark fantasy stories! Thank you for your review, Jessica!


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