book review

ARC Book Review: ‘The Hazel Wood’ by Melissa Albert


The Hazel Wood. Melissa Albert. Penguin. Release date: 8th February 2018.

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 away – by a figure who claims to come from 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.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began…

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I finished reading The Hazel Wood over the Christmas holidays and I have been putting off writing my review ever since, because I had no idea what to say about it without being too spoilery. It’s one of those books you’re better off going into without knowing too much, because the weird twists and turns are what make it such a compelling read.

When I first read the description of this book, I was DESPERATE to get my hands on it, especially when I saw that one reviewer had compared it to Night Film by Marisha Pessl (which is one of my favourite books of all time). When I initially requested the book on Netgalley, I got rejected, and I was SO disappointed, but then a few weeks later I randomly decided to try my luck again and this time I got approved! I was OVER THE MOON.

This was such a fantastic book to read over Christmas because it provided a strange and absorbing world to escape into whenever Christmassy socialising got a bit overwhelming. It’s one of those books that really draws you in and makes you forget where you are. The writing is creepy, atmospheric, and surreal; in other words, my ultimate cup of tea.

What made The Hazel Wood such an addictive read for me was the weird mystery of it all, and the blurred lines between fantasy and reality. I can see why this book has been compared to Night Film, because both books are reality-bending, thrilling reads, and both involve a character investigating the works and worlds of a mysterious, elusive creator (in Night Film it’s a cult horror movie director, but in The Hazel Wood it’s a cult fairytale writer; what a cool thing to be obscurely famous for, amiright?!).

Althea Proserpine, author of ‘Tales From The Hinterland’ was such a fascinating character, because she is such an enigma in the story; Alice, her granddaughter (and our protagonist) has never even read a copy of her book because it’s so rare and difficult to get hold of. Her stories are a mystery, her fans are full of strange theories which they discuss on shady internet forums, her estate ‘The Hazel Wood’ has attained mythical status, because nobody knows where it is, though many have tried to find it, and being an absent Grandmother, she’s a missing piece in Alice’s family puzzle too. I adored the experience of unravelling each thread in this complex, one-woman mystery.

Another thing I really enjoyed about The Hazel Wood was the mother/daughter dynamic between Alice and her mother Ella. Ella is something of an enigma too, because she is a keeper of many secrets, and as the majority of the book’s storyline is Alice’s quest to find Ella, they don’t get that much page-time together. However, it was lovely to see how close Alice felt to, and fiercely loyal she was towards, her mum (something we don’t often see in YA books), and Alice’s connection with her mum really helped me to find a connection with her (something I struggled with initially, because I found her spiky and difficult to warm up to).

I really enjoyed all of the flashbacks from Alice’s childhood with Ella, and it was interesting to see how their lifestyle affected and deepened the bond between them; Alice’s whole childhood was spent moving from place to place, sometimes at the drop of a hat, so, being all each other really had in the world, Alice and Ella were bound very tightly together from the beginning.

Undoubtedly what I loved most about The Hazel Wood was its use of fairytale. Although we don’t get to hear all of Althea’s tales, I was gripped completely by each and every one of them. I wish ‘Tales From The Hinterland’ was a real book (or at the very least, a spin-off written by Melissa Albert 😛 ), because I would give anything to read it.

The fairytales interspersed within this novel were so dark, strange, and creepy, and I just devoured them. The beginning of the story ‘Alice Three Times’ in particular made me shiver. I don’t want to say too much about the stories and how they tie in with Alice’s quest, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found the whole concept very imaginative, and very well executed. I would have liked the last section of the book to have been a little longer, so we could have delved more deeply into the setting of Althea’s stories, but I’m pretty sure there is going to be a sequel to this book, so I’m grateful there is still plenty more to explore.

All in all, The Hazel Wood was a novel I couldn’t put down (and immediately decided to re-read upon finishing!) I cannot wait for this book to come out in February so I can get my hands on a physical copy, and I can’t wait for more people to read this so I have someone to talk about it with!

Have you read The Hazel Wood? What did you think of it? Reviews seem to be mixed, but for me it completely lived up to my (very high) expectations!

26 thoughts on “ARC Book Review: ‘The Hazel Wood’ by Melissa Albert”

  1. It was so hard to write a review for this without spoilers! I was a little underwhelmed by the ending. I think I just loved the concept and the characters so much that I wanted more, and for it to be harder/more complicated to escape.

    1. I know, right? Although I think the blurb itself is a little spoilery, which is a shame! Ahh sorry to hear that. Although I really loved the book I can see where you’re coming from. I definitely wanted the Hinterland section to be longer. I am hoping there will be a sequel as I feel like there is so much more to get out of this concept.

  2. Fantastic review! I read that one too and loved it so much. I agree that it is way better to go into this story without knowing too much, and the blurred lines between fantasy and reality are probably what made me love this book so much, as well. I loved the mix of contemporary and fantasy in it and how everything was slowly introduced to us, as well 🙂
    Great review! 🙂

    1. Aw thanks so much Marie 🙂 Yeah I think it was really awesome how the different genres were blended together, and the lines were blurred. I think a lot of people found the beginning slow paced, but like you said, I appreciated that everything was revealed to us slowly, it added to the mystery of it all. 🙂

    1. Haha, yep! I don’t do that very often! I think mainly I did it because, whilst I was reading it the first time, I sped through because I wanted to know what was going to happen, so I wanted to go back and re-read it more slowly to absorb all of the descriptions and details 🙂

  3. Amazing review!! I really love the sound of this and definitely want to check this out. This sounds so gripping and I love anything that has fairy tale elements tbh 😉 And it’s so awesome that you got this on your second try!

    1. Aw thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it. It has been getting quite mixed reviews, I think because it’s quite a slow build, but I really enjoyed that about it, it just added to the mystery 🙂 Look forward to seeing what you think.

  4. Lovely review!! I’ve seen so many mixed reviews for this one. Some were disappointed, but many felt the opposite and loved it. One thing all the reviews have in common is that everyone agrees that it is a unique concept and they could not put it down… I may give this one a go once all the hype dies down.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it seems to be one that has divided opinion. I think some people have been put off by the slower pace, but I actually thought that worked well in this book. Yes definitely a unique and awesome concept. Hope you enjoy if you decide to give it a go! 🙂

    1. Yes, it was very unique! I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a go 🙂 And thanks for the recommendations, I will check them out! I do enjoy a good self help book.

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