Saturday, February 3

Gorgeous & Dark Destinations Await You in THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

“There are no lessons in it. There's just this harsh, horrible world touched with beautiful magic, where shitty things happen."


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.




Disclaimer: This is an ARC review! Quotes are not from the final copy, I have no way of knowing if anything at all was changed in the final version. 

4/5 for the characters Here's the thing - I loooved reading about the characters, and found them incredibly complex people. Alice was a bit of a mess, full of flaws and imperfections, but that was what made her so very real. There were times when I was dissatisfied with how she acted or treated people, but I never ceased to root for her, which goes to show how well-written she was. The same can be said about Finch, who was such a great addition to the story. He was a much lighter character than Alice, but as the story progressed we were shown some of his flaws, all of which just made me like him even more. He and Alice were super-different in many ways, yet, they worked together so well, and formed a truly dynamic duo. 

That said, there were some problems that I would like to bring up: 

(1) I only ever got invested in Finch and Alice, meanwhile neither the mother, nor the grandmother was of any interest to me. Any other character that appeared - like fans of Alice's grandmother, or Alice's stepsister and stepfather - were barely described, and I forgot them right after their 'purpose' in the story was completed. 

(2) There are some... less than acceptable things Alice pulls. At one part, she gets all feisty with a police officer, which makes Finch, who is black, scared and angry. He calls her out on her privilege, Alice, however, does not want to ponder over what Finch is saying, despite understanding his meaning perfectly well. Her reaction to the shame she feels over being ignorant is to drive the car off the road, and nearly kill the both of them. This was just... so baffling to me, especially considering that this was handled at no part of the novel. We got an explanation for why Alice had anger management issues, but it was too little, too late.


"I did get it, I did. And the shame of it boiled into something darker. Before my brain could catch up, I jerked the wheel and turned the car off the road, sending us rattling toward the trees."

5/5 for the romance Why? Because there was basically none. I love romance novels... actually, I love romance in any genre, however, the books that have no romantic plot can feel like a breath of fresh air. At first I believed Finch and Alice would end up together, it was kind of like a "will they, won't they" situation for awhile there, but I was very happy with how things ended for them. Aaand, that is all I can say without spoilers! Sorry, friends, you'll have to read this if you're interested in learning more.

5/5 for creativity The magical world Melissa Albert created was so so SO gorgeous. The Hazel Wood was filled with unique tales and characters, who managed to be intriguing and frightening at the same time. Twice Killed Katherine, anyone? All through the novel I kept on wanting to read the short stories Alice's grandma created, so imagine how pumped I was to learn that the author is going to publish them in a collection, albeit we will have to wait until 2020 for that. *cries*

5/5 for the prose I rarely mention the writing, because it has never been a big concern of mine, however, I - like the writing expert I obviously am - have to give praise where praise is earned. Melissa Albert has a way with words, which goes beyond writing beautiful prose. I mean, sure, she does that too, but what is even more remarkable about her skills is that she is able to pull you into the story completely, and only let you go when you finish the book. However, even then, you will not be free - if you're at all like me, the story will remain with you for a long time, and you'll frequently ponder over the ending. 

“Usually when I looked at people too long I started seeing them as component parts: Bony noses. Eyeballs in sockets. Odd cartilage curve of ears and fingers so strange and overevolved and makeup floating just over the skin and what the hell was with pants, and knees, and how did we walk around like all of this was normal?” 

4/5 overall See, I wish I could give this 5 stars, wish it with all my heart. But the car incident made me so angry - and the more I think about it, the less satisfied I am with how it was handled, or, in this case, not handled- that I simply cannot. That, however, doesn't take away from how magical and gorgeous this book was, and how utterly dark it got at certain parts. 1000% recommended.

18 comments:

  1. "He calls her out on her privilege, Alice, however, does not want to ponder over what Finch is saying, despite understanding his meaning perfectly well. Her reaction to the shame she feels over being ignorant is to drive the car off the road, and nearly kill the both of them."

    EXCUSE ME WHAT? I'm baffled that editors don't pick up on this kind of things and try to just give it a better explanation or maybe just erase it completely for the novel? anyways, I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive because apparently pre-order doesn't guarantee a copy the day the book comes out *eye rolling* and so I don't know when I'll get the book. I wanted to read it this month but now I don't know.

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    1. I KNOW, IT PISSED ME OFF SO MUCH. You might be more satisfied with the explanation given, but I just really, really wasn't. On a side note, this was an ARC, so I hope that it was taken out of the final copy. Besides this, I really loved this! It was dark with lush descriptions. And, my god, I just 'love' when I preorder something, and it arrives weeks later smh.

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  2. I've seen this one floating around, but I'm starting to think I wouldn't like it. She tries to kill them because she feels ignorant? How awful. I've also heard people say that there are a lot of missing pieces until the very end. I'm all for a slow reveal, but you can't save everything for the end and just leave obnoxious content in the middle.

    Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. Yeah, it really, really was awful. And if you don't like books that leave a lot of the revelations then I probably wouldn't recommend it. Nearly through the whole book there are smaller reveals, but you have to wait for the really important ones until the end.

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  3. HOLD UP. She tried to kill them both because of that incident, wtf? Wow, I'm surprised that made it to the final edits. I appreciate you for adding this in, because I've read quite a few reviews for this title, yet you're the only person who has pointed this out. Overall, it does sound like a great read, and since I have never read an Alice retelling, (I don't think) I'm really intrigued to pick this up! Great review as always boo!

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    1. Yeah... it was really awful, and I'm confused as to why the author thought it was necessary for the story. :| I've read some Alice retellings, and this is one of the best ones, so I'd still recommend it! Thank you. :)

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  4. Wow this sounds really good, in spite of that one rather glaring issue. Yikes. But I want to read this now! Even if she does drive off the road when she's bad! *joking*

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    1. It really, really is good, so I'd def recommend it, especially if you like book with a darker atmosphere! :D

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  5. That scene with Alice talking back to the police officer really rubbed me the wrong way. I think the author wanted to address her privilege, but Alice just kind of brushes over it so quickly. I ultimately gave this one three stars. The author really shines with those dark fairy tales.

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    1. Same, and the whole driving off the road made it worse. I was very angry at her there, especially because she kinda expected Finch to just get over it afterwards. The author truly is good at them, so I'm very excited for the short story collection!

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  6. Oh wow! I was waiting for this one but I don't know now. That incedent about how she acted with the officer and running them both off the road is rubbing me the wrong way, I got to say! Thanks so much for bring this to my attention, amazing review as always!
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
    -Helena 💋 xoxo

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    1. It's a very short scene, tbh, buuut it really was horrific and the fact that it was NOT handled afterward just made it worse. Thank you! You too! :)

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  7. i heard a lot of complaints about alices' behavior in this book, but never actually know how bad it is until you tell me about the car thing.... that's just horrible! i'm still interested in the dark world of hitherland though!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. It was definitely an awful scene, and so freaking unnecessary, as well. I love unlikable characters, but Alice was just... not for me,I guess. I didn't hate her, but I also wouldn't have cared if she died haha.

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  8. Excellent review - I loved this one too, especially on the romance issue there. :)

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    1. Thank you! Ah, yes, the little to no romance was amazing :D

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  9. I've seen tons of great reviews for this, but yours is the first that touches on Alice's reaction to being called out for her privilege. Wow! What an editorial oversight. I do love the sound of virtually everything else, though!

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    1. Nearly everything else was great!! So I'd still recommend it. And, who knows, this was an ARC, so perhaps that scene was deleted from the final copy. I SURE HOPE SO, at least.

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