[Book Review] The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Format: Hardback, 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018

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Originally I had given The Hazel Wood 5 stars, but after thinking about it for a few days I have to downgrade it to a 3.5.

It’s a super quick read, but I will tell you there are a few bits that were a slog to get through. The Hazel Wood is Melissa Albert’s début novel and is being billed as book 1 of a series. If this is the case her first foray is quite good.

What Popped: There were lots of plot twists, which kept me on my toes. I liked that for the most part it was fast paced, but not so fast that I got lost while reading. I enjoy a good character and plot driven novel and The Hazel Wood is for me is a good balance.

What Flopped: I will have to say I didn’t quite connect to any of the characters. The one character I halfway liked met an untimely demise. I wanted and tried without success to connect with the main character, Alice. There was something about her that made me not particularly care for her.

I have to admit it took me days to read the last 50 pages. For some reason I just didn’t care anymore. Basically I tapped out. There were a ton of details, but none of the details really connected for me in a meaningful way. I felt like there was way to much focus on the mother/daughter relationship without really showing the reader why their relationship was so symbiotic.

My Thoughts: Even though I didn’t care for Alice, I did enjoy her quest. Her quest to find her ‘mother’. Her journey through the Hazel Wood/the Hinterland to find herself.

Alice talks about the ‘bad luck’ that followed her and her mother, Ella, whenever they stayed in a place to long. As Alice learns when she’s in the Hazel Wood she’s kind of right. It’s not bad luck per se, but it is something that is following them and wants them her back. And because Ella does not want to go back, they keep running; and the bad luck keeps following them.

Earlier I said I didn’t really connect with the characters, but there is one character that I really liked and that was Finch, Ellory Finch. He decided to help Alice find her mother, but there was an overall innocence and sadness to Finch that I liked and wanted to see more of. I wish there was more of him. When he was with Alice, he seemed to soften her and cancel out her rough, unrefined edges; which in turn made Alice a little more palatable.

Alice was a firecracker that was always popping off. She always had something smart to say and was argumentative. There is a scene that describes her eyes while in the Hinterland. They were black, which made me wonder if that was why Alice was so angry and disagreeable.

Now I know I’m negating my earlier statement about it being a nice even plot and character driven story. I do feel that way; however, I do believe that a few of the characters could have been rooted out a little more. I wish we had delved deeper into Finch. There were several instances in which he’s relaying something about himself and stops short of the, if you will, punchline. I’m sure it wouldn’t have moved the plot forward, but I found myself wanting to know Finch.

I also wanted to know more about Janet. She got through to the Hinterland with Althea, Alice’s grandmother, not grandmother. But I found myself wanting to know how she survived and how she become charged with ‘orientation’.

I thought I wanted to know about Ella and Alice, but I’m not sure I care enough about them to want to know more. They were fairly two-dimensional characters, actually I felt Ella was more one-dimensional; and I just didn’t find them likeable or interesting enough to care a whole lot about.

I did want to know about the fairy tale characters that got Alice to the Hinterland. What were their fairy tale stories?

I loved, loved , loved the creation of this Hinterland world. The way it’s written is simply beautiful. Magical. It kind of makes me want to take a trip to the Hinterland. Albeit a round-trip. And although if you’re not of the Hinterland world you’re not supposed to interact with the Stories, I would want to have interaction with them.

Albert’s physical description of the Hinterland/Halfway Wood is eloquently described. She describes the sun as being bright but not to bright that you can’t make things out. She describes the way trees and branches move out of Alice’s way to express how they are pleased or displeased or annoyed by her presence.

It appears that this is the first in a series and I hope so because I have a lot of unanswered questions.

So, yeah I’m definitely interested in seeing where Melissa Albert goes.

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