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’ve had The Hazel Wood on my TBR since I saw Canterbury Road Co had a candle based on it, which I bought and it smelled amazing but that’s a post for another time. I finally got around to reading it and, while I had a physical copy, I went ahead and listened to the audiobook copy of it because of two things — I didn’t have another audiobook to listen to on the way to and from work at the time and it’s performed by a narrator I’ve enjoyed in the past. I also had The Hazel Wood on my list of books to read for the Fox and Wit March Reading Challenge so I was hoping to finish it during the month of March. Anyway, let’s dive into the review.
The characters were all really well developed and I have no trouble imagining them all as real people. I actually have quite a bit more trouble imagining them as just characters instead of being real people. While I maybe didn’t agree with all of the choices Alice made, I really liked her as a main character and I feel like her arc was really well done. I also liked the side characters, though there were a few times I’d love to have slapped some of them.
The world building in The Hazel Wood is positively stunning and thoroughly immersive. Some of the story takes place in the real world, some of it takes place in the Hinterland, and some takes place in the spaces between. There wasn’t a single time during The Hazel Wood that I felt outside of the world of it at all and I love it all the more for that.
The idea behind The Hazel Wood is absolutely brilliant. Having had some time to digest it a bit, I feel like the flow of the plot itself could have been a little smoother. It’s been just long enough since I listened to this one that I can remember the way the story went while being able to analyze the good points vs. the bad points but too long to formulate it nice and pretty the way I would usually like to. Excuse me while I attempt to anyway. *Ahem*
What I enjoyed most about the plot was the dangling information. It was a near constant ‘here’s the answer to that one question you had, but it also makes you realize that you need the answer to this other, seemingly unrelated question’ and that kept the book in my hands, which is obviously a huge writing goal. I also really, really enjoyed the plot twists. I saw them coming from a mile away, but they were the type of twists meant for the character, not the reader, and they worked very well in that way.
I also really liked the fact that this is one-hundred percent a standalone novel. It stands perfectly on its own two legs and doesn’t require any other novels to round anything out. The loose strings are all wrapped up before the end and all the questions I had were answered. There is a bit of opening left at the end like we see in some novels where the author leaves an opening for the reader to imagine the character and story continuing – to imagine life continuing – after the novel has finished. I honestly prefer it that way because, one, I can imagine the characters continuing on and wonder about their stories and, two, it leaves the author an opening for a potential off-shoot novel.
The only thing I can say I didn’t much like about the plot was the way it flowed. It flowed really well in some places, but then it sputtered and screeched to a halt in others. It was a bit jarring and a little annoying sometimes, but not enough to make me want to put the book down so obviously it wasn’t too bad. And, yes, if the plot dies and doesn’t revive itself before I get bored or annoyed with it, I will drop an audiobook just as fast as a physical or digital one. Life is too short, blah blah blah. That’s another post entirely though so…. let’s move on!
The Hazel Wood is narrated by Rebecca Soler, who also narrated The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I already knew I really liked her narrating style going into this and I was excited to be able to hear her work again. She definitely did not let me down with The Hazel Wood, maintaining her standing as one of my favourite narrators. Her storytelling style is fluid and clear, adding inflection and depth to the story as she brings it to life. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more of her work.
I really enjoyed this story and the characters in it. I enjoyed Melissa Albert’s writing style for the most part and how well she paints images with words. I definitely look forward to reading more from her and seeing how her style changes and improves as she gains more experience.
Overall, I rate The Hazel Wood 4 out of 5 bookworms. Don’t just take my word for it. Add it on Goodreads and enjoy it for yourself!
Remember to live one page at a time!