Book Reviews

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (Spoiler-free) Review

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.

I am so conflicted when it comes to rating this book. On one hand, the writing was magnificent, especially the chapters that were actually fairytales. On the other hand, the book dragged for a good portion of it. Like I’m talking over 50% of the book was a drag. My biggest con for this book was the main character, Alice. I’ll go into more detail about her below.

So the basic premise of this book is Alice takes a journey to rescue her mom from the Hinterland. Her grandmother, who she never met, is an author of a book of dark fairytales titled Tales of the Hinterland. Alice believes her mother was kidnapped by the characters from this book. She, along with her friend Finch, set off to her grandmother’s estate, the Hazel Wood, where she believes is where her mother is.

I’m going to talk about the positives first. The writing was incredible. It was whimsical and lyrical and really drew me in at parts. When we got to the chapters that were the fairytales from the book, I was enraptured totally. I would 100% read a bind-up of all the fairytales! They were my favorite part of the book. Unfortunately, we only got a small glimpse of these stories. I would have liked more of them!! The second half of the book when we were in fairytale land was also great! I wish more of the book would have been more like the last 40 percent.

Let’s talk about Alice. She was my biggest issue with this novel. She was a rude, hateful, judgmental person. I absolutely hated being in her head. I just couldn’t get over the things she thought and said to people. She has no friends in this book. None. She only has her mother. Well, she meets this kid Finch in her school and he tried to befriend her. The one person who tries to be her friend she treats like crap the entire time. Also let me add that he is also the only black character in this book. The things she would say to him had me having to stop and re-read what I had just read just to make sure I was reading it correctly. At one point in the book, Alice and Finch run into a cop. Alice decides to throw this cop attitude for absolutely no reason at all. This made Finch extremely uncomfortable and he told Alice that. He was afraid of being racially profiled. Instead of actually listening to him, she just throws in his face that because he’s rich it shouldn’t matter. Like being rich totally negates the fact that he’s black. And then throughout the whole book that’s all she has to say about him. Like his being rich is his only defining characteristic. I just couldn’t with her. She absolutely brought this entire book down. If she hadn’t been such a horrible person, I think I could have really enjoyed this book! It’s a shame really.

There’s also one more thing I would like to add before I end this review that just didn’t sit well with me. When Alice was a child, she was kidnapped. Okay? That’s fine. But what I didn’t like was the fact that she acted like being kidnapped was no big deal because her kidnapper was “nice to her and bought her blueberry pancakes or waffles or something along those lines.” I’m not okay with a book glorifying kidnapping. I don’t know. I just didn’t like that at all and it rubbed me the wrong way.

Overall, I just didn’t like this book. I really wanted more of the dark fairytales. I was expecting to be entranced by this book, but more than anything I was just bored. If you can look past the fact that the main character is a horrible person then maybe you will like this book. It just wasn’t for me. I have been going back and forth on my rating and I think based on my enjoyment, I am going to give this book a rating of 2.5 stars out of 5.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.


49 thoughts on “The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (Spoiler-free) Review

  1. I’m about 25% of the way through this book and I’m struggling with it so far. Hasn’t really caught my attention and I found that the kidnapping part annoyed me too. I’m going to battle on through it to see if it improves, but I thought I was going to enjoy it much more than I am!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We share the exact same thoughts! For me, Alice is a very difficult character to like and I wished the first half didn’t drag as much. Fortunately, the writing was phenomenal and I’m excited to see more work from Melissa Albert!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s hard to rate a book when it drags but the ending is AMAZING. (Or it becomes faster pace but takes forever to get to that point). It’s also really difficult to enjoy a book and not connect/like a main character. I enjoyed reading your review, great job!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Can I just say that I’m so glad you found fault with this too! Everyone else loves it. I got to about 40% and couldn’t go on, it was SO slow and I honestly got bored.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad I’m not alone in feeling this way. The action didn’t even pick up til 60%. I know because I looked on my kindle how far into the book I was. That’s a ridiculously long time before anything really starts to happen. If you do decide to pick it up again, just know that at 60% is where things do start to get better.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I keep seeing this book everywhere and the cover is gorgeous, and now you’ve got me even more intrigued but at the same time hesitant to read it….very interesting…thanks for the review!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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