“…life was a big thing to live without a map.”
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.
The Hazel Wood tells a story of a young woman discovering the dark & twisted world from her grandmother’s version of fairy-tale.
Alice Proserpine spent most of her life fleeing bad lucks who according to her mother, have brought to them by Alice’s grandmother. Alice grandmother is an author of a cult-classic book about dark fairy tales called Tales from the Hinterland. When Alice’ grandmother dies at her estate, The Hazel Wood, and her mother mysteriously gone, Alice find herself into the world of her grandmother’s stories.
The Hazel Wood is on top of my most anticipated book of 2018. I’ve been eying to read it since I first saw the cover art late last year. And when I read the blurb, I’m more than intrigued. It cement my curiosity and my will to read the book as soon as copies hit shelves. So obviously I have my expectations.
“Life never turns out how you imagine it will when you’re young. Everything is smaller than you think, or too big.”
So when I get the chance to finally read it, after months of waiting, I end up a bit disappointed. First, the book started slow. The first half feels like the story is not giving the fairy-tale and adventure that the blurb promise me. I waited for it to pick-up some pace, and just give me more adventure than just Alice’s aggressive personality and sometimes infuriating narrations. Clearly, I got a hard time liking Alice as the main character. Which is the second reason why the book become a miss for me. Usually, I don’t mind unlikeable characters, I did enjoyed reading from villains points of view before, and I also encountered pessimistic characters that I end up liking, but Alice is a totally different story. Her aggressive personality is hard for me to swallow, making the story less enjoyable. Maybe it is also my fault, since given Alice’s name and the hints about Hinterland’s world, I can’t help but expect something like an Alice in Wonderland kind of adventure with a dark twist added like Grimms Fairytales. But Alice Proserpine is no like Alice of Alice in Wonderland, which is supposed to be a good thing, since readers don’t want a copy-cat of other literary characters after-all. But Alice Proserpine is still not a likable character for me. So not liking her means not caring about her and her own adventure.
Then we have Ellery Finch, a Hinterland fanatic whom I thought would be a better character than Alice, but unfortunately he wasn’t fully developed. His character actually has a purpose but unfortunately it is only to be a device to serve Alice and nothing more.
“We were each our own island, gathered together into one messed-up archipelago.”
Despite of not-linking much of the characters, there are things that I still like in The Hazel Woods, one of them is the imaginative tale it offers. Melissa Albert did a good job in blending the whimsical world of Hinterland and the real world where Alice lives in. I also appreciate the exploration of fandom, mother-daughter relationship, and reinvention of supposedly innocent fairy-tales. I believe these where Melissa Albert really succeed, which ultimately makes The Hazel Wood a must try read even though it is not all positive for me.
“Books want to be read, and by the right people.”
All in all, The Hazel Wood is an imaginative, dark and mysterious tale. It may not all good and glory but there still something to enjoy and like.