My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received an e-arc of The Hazel Wood to read via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
I love dark fairy tale stories so when I read the synopsis for The Hazel Wood I was immediately intrigued, with more than a pinch of scepticism. “No books are *that* dark these days”, I thought to myself.
Happily, I was very wrong. The Hazel Wood is everything good about fantasy and if you like your fairy tales dark and bloody you won’t be disappointed.
Alice and her mother Ella live life on the road constantly travelling from town to city to town again as bad luck follows them. Then, they receive word that Alice’s grandmother, the infamous, cult-acclaimed writer of a book of fairy tales and owner of The Hazel Wood estate, has passed away and the bad luck engulfs their lives completely.
Although a fantasy book, The Hazel Wood is set in “the real world” for 60% of the book. I really enjoyed this slow unravelling of the story and found it very creepy as more and more of the dark fantasy world invaded the supposedly safe surroundings Alice was in. I love the way Melissa Albert writes, she can send icy shivers down your back by the simple act of having a background character unexpectedly wink at Alice, letting you know they were part of the Hinterland.
The Hinterland itself is a fairy tale masterpiece. The idea of a realm where these dark, twisted fairy tales repeat themselves over and over, with the subjects of the hellish stories unable to free themselves is absolutely chilling. I found the journey Alice had to complete within the realm a little overlong and bogged down with description, however, the plot itself was clever and gripping.
The characterisation in this book was fantastic. The characters were all flawed but inherently likeable. I fell in love with Finch and his kind, quiet nature and I found the way Alice interacted with different people in her life very interesting. From her close, dependant relationship with her mother to her blossoming relationship with Finch I felt like I was able to get to know Alice better by the way she behaved with each person in her life.
My only criticism with the book is with the length. Admittedly it is a very detailed story with a tangled plot that required a lot of explaining, but I found that in places the pace of the plot dipped a bit and some sections (e.g. Finch and Alice travelling to The Hazel Wood) could have been far choppier without taking anything away from the plot.
If you like fairy tales you will definitely enjoy this original, unpredictable take on the genre.