Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

What’s it about?

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels.

But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a 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, by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world from her grandmother’s stories.

Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My thoughts

This was very out of my comfort zone but I’d seen lots of positive reviews so requested an ARC and was delighted to be approved.  I was looking forward to trying something different but also somewhat wary that I might not like it as I do struggle with magical realism.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book when we’re introduced to Alice and Ella’s lifestyles and when Finch comes onto the scene, I liked his and Alice’s unusual relationship, although I don’t quite understand why she was so horrid to him a lot of the time, however, I particularly liked their hunt for the rare book Tales of the Hinterland (would have liked more of this) and their road trip scenes.  I also enjoyed the short stories of Tales of the Hinterland that were incorporated into the main story – these little bites were probably enough of a fairy tale for me to be honest.  I started to struggle when Alice found The Hazel Wood, the Hinterland and the events that followed.  That whole magical realism, I think I try too hard to rationalise it all rather than take it for what is: I didn’t get it, got confused and lost interest.

My problem with books like this is the constant trying to work out the logistics of how this stuff works; what can’t we all see the doors, where is The Hazel Wood, why can’t it be seen by others, where do people left behind in our normal world think people like Alice are, are they just missing? These are the things that are going through my head which you just can’t do in a book of this nature!

As I don’t regularly read this type of book I don’t really have much to compare it too or am able to say read it if you like so and so but it did very much remind me of the movies Inkheart and The Spiderwick Chronicles (which I have since discovered are based on books).  I really enjoyed these movies so I’m thinking I enjoy magical realism more on the screen.  This isn’t my usual go to read but if you love fantasy, magic and fairy tales with a darker side and a hint of mystery then you’ll probably enjoy it and therein lies the moral of this blog post to myself: less fantasy books, you enjoy the movies more!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books

9 Comments

  1. 22nd June 2018 / 8:24 am

    Maybe you have your ‘detective’ gene active Lindsay. You know I LOVED the Hinterland and found those earlier parts slow. I do enjoy that we all have different perspectives and likes. I’ve just read on GR that it’s been optioned for a movie (there’s a follow up to The Hazel Wood and a short stories ‘Tales of the Hinterland’ too) so maybe you’ll derive pleasure from it on the screen 🙂

    • Lindsay | Bookboodle
      Author
      22nd June 2018 / 8:37 am

      Total opposites aren’t we when it comes to this type of book! 😊
      I think that, for me, these genres are better enjoyed visually where I don’t have to dissect what’s going on x

  2. 23rd June 2018 / 4:13 pm

    Wonderful review! Magical realism is always a tricky thing for me as well. I think I prefer either all fantasy or all realism, although I can enjoy magical realism too if I’m in the right mood. You’re right though that it’s way easier to enjoy on the screen since the elements are easier to ‘accept’ in a way.

    • Lindsay | Bookboodle
      Author
      24th June 2018 / 8:16 am

      Thanks! I definitely think I should stay away from these books as a genre, I’ve tried a few now to know they don’t work for me and stick to the big screen versions!! 🙂

      • 28th June 2018 / 2:00 pm

        Yeah I should probably do the same… I finished another magical realism book the other day (When The Moon Was Ours), and again the magical realism elements just weren’t for me.

  3. 24th June 2018 / 9:16 am

    Very interesting Review. This would also be outside of my comfort zone, but lately I’ve read a few more “magical” reads and enjoyed them. So I think it’s always a good idea to try new genres 🙂

    • Lindsay | Bookboodle
      Author
      7th July 2018 / 12:34 pm

      Well exactly, you won’t know if you don’t try them. Although I’m probably not going to read anymore 😉

  4. 26th June 2018 / 10:51 pm

    Updated fairy tales definitely seem to be in at the moment! I find that with this kind of book it really depends what mood I’m in – I might be really pedantic, or I might be happy with ‘magic, magic, handwave, magic’.

    • Lindsay | Bookboodle
      Author
      7th July 2018 / 12:35 pm

      Same here really. For me, it probably has to be all or nothing 🙂

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