Rating: 4 stars
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.
This book is one of many books I’ve read in my life that I was sad to put down. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want it to end. What I loved about The Hazel Wood was all the elements of fantasy embedded within, such as the dark/grim fairytales told within its pages and the world of the Hinterland where refugees and Stories resided together. I love how dark the fairytales mentioned are because real life isn’t always so pretty. So, for me, it was refreshing to read a book with fairytales that were grimmer than what they usually are. I also liked seeing the world of the Hinterland because you see all these different characters from different stories, but you also see real people in this world too. I found it really fascinating to read about.
What I also enjoyed when reading The Hazel Wood is how the author explained where Alice’s bad luck came from with regards to why the characters in the Hinterland world wanted her back there so badly and how this led to the events that happened within the book’s pages. I found it interesting to discover how Alice connects to this terribly grim world and to get a logical explanation as to why bad luck was following her and her mother everywhere they went as she was growing up. While I felt bad for Alice when she finds out the truth about who she really is, it also made sense to me because of the way things were happening in the story.
I also love this book because you can see the effect the magic of the written word can take through Alice’s grandmother Aletha when she writes her book about the Hinterland. The written word is so powerful that it bridges two worlds together. When she writes about a world that she herself went to, it allows characters from that world to get out. And as Alice explores this world, she learns what type of effect that had on the Hinterland as well as the world she grew up in.
But what I loved most with reading this book was how I felt like I was there in the book with all these characters. Most of the time I was reading this book, I felt like I could picture myself with Alice as she’s going on this journey to rescue her mother while simultaneously discovering the truth about her own story and what she needed to do to guarantee a happy ending for herself and her mother. While the Hinterland isn’t necessarily a world I’d personally want to live in, I found myself when reading longing to get a chance to see this world for myself and to learn more about the Stories in this world. If anything, I would want to be like the refugees in this book, exploring the world of the Hinterland before finding my way back home.
If I have any criticisms when it comes to this book, it would be that I didn’t want the story to end along with wishing there were more stories from the Hinterland that we could read about. I overall enjoyed reading The Hazel Wood and was sad to see this story end. I just wish we learned more about the Hinterland while Alice was stuck within that world. Luckily, there’s a sequel called The Night Country that came out this month, which I’m definitely planning on giving a read.
I recommend The Hazel Wood to all fantasy lovers like me, especially to people who want to read darker fairytales and find themselves immersed in a world unlike any I’ve read about before.