Book 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.

Rating: ★ ★ ★
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Format: Audiobook
Length: ~8 hours

Lemme just preface this by saying: I kind of spaced out during this book towards the end. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I was trying to multi-task while listening, which never works out. Lesson learned. So for me the ending of this story is kind of a blur, which is not great because I feel like the main plot of this book is in the very end.

The Hazel Wood has an interesting narrative. I was hours into this audiobook before I felt like I had really understood what the main conflict really was. I mean, I knew bad stuff was happening, but really the cool bits are at the end, and the story takes a total turn and becomes a whole other thing.

But let me be upfront: I do not get all the hate for this book. I thought it was okay (and on the good side of okay, too), but when I went to Goodreads to log it, I saw that it had a lot of one star reviews. I read through them and kind of get where they were coming from, but I enjoyed this book, and had I been a better reader and focused more during the end, I think I would have liked it more.

I love the fairy tale elements of this book. I feel like I can’t really go into specifics on this without spoiling it, but I really love what Albert did with all of the fairy tale stuff. I also loved how she weaved together our world with a fantasy world. I’m a sucker for stories with portals to other worlds, or alternate worlds within a world.

My least favorite part of this book is the main character. For me, she was kind of okay, up until this one scene that made me hate her for pretty much the rest of the book.

*Spoilers upcoming I guess since this does happen pretty far into the book.*

She and her “sidekick” Finch (who is black) were trying to go down a road that was blocked by cops, and the cop comes and tells them to turn around, and she is so fucking rude and won’t listen to directions at all. And then when Finch is mad at her afterwards, she doesn’t apologize for putting him in a potentially dangerous situation with a cop. Instead she keeps acting like she’s in the right. Internally she recognizes she’s wrong, but she never admits it or apologizes. And then she almost drives them into a tree because she’s mad. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

The side characters weren’t all that much more interesting, but all least they didn’t piss me off so much.

The setting and the narrative are definitely the strong points of this story, though I did find myself getting lost towards the end. I also really loved Albert’s writing style.

I was feeling sort of indifferent to this book, up until I got to the last quarter of it. I wish the book was more of the end. I would have loved to see a whole story that’s just the end of this book, stretched out. The author is writing a sequel, so maybe my wish will come true.

I also think I would have liked this book better if I didn’t listen to the audiobook. I’ve listened to a lot of books (Sadie, The Lunar Chronicles) narrated by Rebecca Soler in the past year, and I was hearing characters from other books come through. As I was listening, the main character just became a mashup of characters from other books she’s narrated. Don’t get me wrong, Rebecca is a fantastic narrator. But she’s too good so she’s done too many books! I think if I ever revisit this, I’ll read a physical copy.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think, especially since this seems to be such a polarizing book!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

  1. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ah that’s fair about this not being as good in the audiobook form- I feel like if I’d listened to it, I’d have liked it less. I definitely agree about the writing and setting being the strongest parts. I also have to admit, I don’t get all the hate either- though I do understand people being meh or in the middle about it, I just don’t get the vitriol levelled at it. Anyway, great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna says:

      Yeah, I can understand people being meh about it, but it’s not *that* bad. I’ve definitely read much more terrible books. I guess it was kind of hyped up before it was released, so maybe people went in expecting more?


  2. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    I didn’t hate The Hazel Wood I was just disappointed by it. I had to re-read my review of it to remind myself what I gave it which was 2 out of 5. I preferred the short fairy tales that were weaved throughout the main story as I quite liked their darkness and originality. The main story for me just felt a bit uninteresting in comparison and the pacing was a bit slow. I don’t think I hated it (if I can remember correctly) but the love wasn’t there sadly.


  3. Shaniah says:

    I really loved this book! I loved the setting and the fact Albert took a different approach and wrote about dark fairytales rather than the usual happy fairytales! The only issue i had was the pace! The start started off slow but then bam in the centre your hit with so much action.. i would have liked it to be spread out. 🙂


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