This baby has been on my list since it was published and I’ve waffled between checking it out from the library, getting it on Audible, or purchasing it from my used bookstore. Well, I just moved and my new local library had it right there on display, so I took that as a sign and finally read it!
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’m stuck between 3 and 4 stars for this one. On the one hand, it has intriguing mystery and magic elements, is pretty creepy in places, and has a couple of twists and turns that I enjoyed. On the other, the characters weren’t fully there for me, the buildup was slow, and the last couple of chapters were a bit confusing.
One thing I really enjoyed about The Hazel Wood was how the different mysteries overlapped each other and helped build intrigue about Hinterland. We have a missing mother, a history of bad luck, and stalkers, just to name a couple of the main thriller/mystery components of the plot. Our protagonist Alice is a slightly unreliable main character which helps add more depth to the storyline.
That being said, I’m not crazy about Alice one way or the other. I never found myself hating her, but I also didn’t find myself really rooting for her; in short, I was neutral about her arc, until the end at least. Then there’s Ellery Finch, Alice’s classmate who’s completely obsessed with Hinterland and Alice’s grandmother. He’s also an unreliable character, which I enjoyed, but like Alice I didn’t learn enough about him to really care much until the end.
Despite not being crazy about the characters, I did really enjoy the writing style and setting, especially in the Hinterland excerpts. It was atmospheric enough to pull me in but remained rooted in reality enough to keep me hooked and not roll my eyes at an excess of flowery metaphors. The excerpts were dark and really make me want to read some twisted fairytales which isn’t something I was ever too interested in, so props for making me more interested in a new genre! (any recs? Hit me up!)
This review is kind of everywhere, but it’s difficult to write a coherent review on something you really enjoyed the feel of more than what it actually was. I felt the dark creepy parts, Alice’s confusion over who took her mom and who she was, and the fear of finding out more about her grandmother and Hinterland. I absolutely loved the way this book sucked me into Hinterland and made me feel a bit paranoid just like Alice. I just didn’t absolutely love the nuances of the book itself- the characters, the pacing, the development, etc.
I know the things I didn’t love about this book are pretty major building blocks of a book, but I’d still recommend giving this a read. It really sucked me in and didn’t let me go until the very end, which I’d say is a sign of a good book!
Have you read The Hazel Wood? What did you think?
Through the White Wood: ice/frost magic, tales of ancient magics and queens
What the Woods Keep: dark atmosphere, otherworldly beings, stories being more than just stories
Dreaming Darkly: unreliable main characters, mysterious past and family history, secrets in the woods, emotionally haunted characters
Truly Devious: playing with timelines, mysterious disappearances
The Book Jumper: stories being more than just stories, characters with hidden pasts
Through the Woods: creepy stories, dark woods