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The Hazel Wood #1

The Hazel Wood

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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.

365 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 30, 2018

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About the author

Melissa Albert

10 books4,397 followers
Melissa Albert is the New York Times and indie bestselling author of the Hazel Wood series and Our Crooked Hearts, and a former bookseller and founder of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages and included in the New York Times’ list of Notable Children’s Books. She enjoys swimming pool tourism, genre mashups, and living in Brooklyn with her hilarious husband and magnificently goofy son.

Okay, now I will stop talking about myself in the third person. I try to reply to all messages and questions, so please reach out, or come find me on Twitter (@mimi_albert) or Instagram (@melissaalbertauthor)! (But please note: I don't accept GR friend requests anymore because of Amazon's related review policy.)

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Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,740 reviews5,281 followers
April 14, 2022
It's time for another unpopular opinion review! This book was literally the single biggest reading disappointment of the year for me. I really wanted to love this story. It was being marketed as a twisted fairytale, and those are my aesthetic for sure - the spookier and darker, the better - but this fell short in so many ways. Please remember that these are just my opinions! You are more than welcome to disagree or tell me your thoughts, but please do so respectfully. ❤

"I wanted that distance. I wanted that uncaring, 'here's your blood and guts and your fucked-up happy ending' fairy-tale voice."

genre marketing & writing
Marketing led me to believe that this was going to be the typical high fantasy world we see in fairytales. My first disappointment was in learning that the setting was modern-day New York, and the first half of the book straddled the line between contemporary and urban fantasy, at best.

The story doesn't pick up as an actual fantasy tale until after the halfway mark, and when it does, the writing immediately becomes much less enjoyable. Anyone who knows my reading tastes knows I love flowery prose, but many of the descriptions in the fantasy "half" of this book go far past flowery, straight through whimsical, and land smack-dab in nonsense.

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.

Let me put it this way: The Hazel Wood is my 200th read of 2017, and there have only been two narrators out of the entire other 199 titles that held a candle to how terrible Alice is. She starts the book off poorly, rambling about her anger issues without giving us any reason as to why she's talking about them. As it progresses, she expresses actual, unwarranted physical violence towards other characters (including attempting to kill them via vehicular manslaughter because she feels guilty for her own poor choices).

She shouts and snaps constantly, has no respect for anyone (besides her mother), and judges everyone she meets hyper-critically. Her judgmental nature even borders on ableism when she meets a character who has been driven to a broken mental state by entering the Hazel Wood: Alice has several internal monologues about how little she trusts the woman's hygiene and the state of the woman's home's cleanliness, solely because she doesn't deem the woman "sane enough".

Even when she enlists the help of Finch, she is incessantly rude, critical, and offensive towards him. When she is finally called out on her offensive nature, she deflects, makes excuses, and has a general disregard for any harm she has caused. In one scenario, when he remarks on her misogynistic speech, her actual comeback is, "Oh, my god, Finch, go get a liberal arts degree" (I read this three times in hopes of making sense of it before deciding that she learned her snark from old men in facebook comment threads).

Beyond all of the ways in which Alice's character is incredibly harmful and is rarely - if ever - challenged for most of her behaviors, she's also just not well-written. She's hypocritical, self-contradicting, and outright boring.

Maybe Finch wasn't trying to be the sidekick in my story. Maybe he was trying to start one of his own.

Finch is introduced in a way that gave me actual optimism for the story: he's a classmate of hers who is kind and welcoming, seeks her friendship, and offers to face certain danger to help her find the Hazel Wood and her mother. Unfortunately, my optimism started to falter when I learned that Finch, the single black character in the story (in New York City, no less), is commented on multiple times as being unattractive and "a waste of wealth" - never challenged.

That was the first red flag - in a book with no commentary on anyone else's features, the single person of color is the only unattractive one? - but it worsens when Finch, despite being a very present figure throughout the story, is never fleshed out. He feels incredibly one-dimensional from start to finish, though some of this may just be to blame on Alice's refusal to let him speak for more than thirty seconds without telling him to shut up.

It felt like there was some small attempt to have a dialogue on racism and privilege when Finch talks to Alice about being afraid of racial profiling, but it's thrown away when Alice immediately insinuates that his father's wealth negates any racism he faces, and then further derails the conversation every time he tries to speak to her about it. By the end of the book, I resigned myself to the feeling that Finch was, in every shape and form, a Token Black Character™. His entire character arc felt so bad to read.

Literally the only redeeming aspect of this book, for me, was the occasional time when we would get to hear one of Althea's tales. Sadly, they're incredibly few and far between - I think we only got two full tales in the entire book. I enjoyed those stories, and would probably read a bind-up of them, but within the context of the entire book, they weren't enough to salvage it.

This book was just a total disaster from start to finish for me, and the only reason I didn't DNF it at the 40% mark was because I was so desperately hoping it would improve by the end. I would more than likely not pick up any future books by Melissa Albert, and cannot, in good faith, recommend this story to anyone.

Thank you to Flatiron for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

You can find this review and more here on my blog!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
January 30, 2018
Did her insides match her outsides? Was the way my life dripped off me like water, barely leaving a mark, normal?

Okay, so this was not a book for me. I really wish I hadn’t received an arc of The Hazel Wood and had instead waited for more reviews to roll in first.

The blurb makes it sound exactly like the kind of dark fairy tale goodness I love, but if someone had - more accurately - explained that this is a book about a girl called Alice who gets sent to Wonderland the Hinterland where she meets tweedle dee and tweedle dum many colourful characters who talk in riddles, and she finds herself doing bizarre and random things like attending an unbirthday party singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Landslide” in a Tudor-style pub… well, I’d have passed. I’ve already read Alice in Wonderland. Once was enough.

I know this will be much more suited to a specific type of reader who likes dreamy, nonsensical prose, heavy on the metaphors. Perhaps those who enjoyed books like Caraval. Those who are more forgiving of no one saying what they actually mean and talking all mysterious for no other reason than “shh, this is the rule of fairytales” because we all know it's more magical if nothing makes sense. For me, it was honestly irritating to have characters withhold important information just ‘cause.

The book opens with a bit of background about Alice, her mother Ella, and her reclusive grandmother Althea Proserpine - an author of a dark fairy tale collection, Tales from the Hinterland, that gained a cult following some years back. Alice has never met her grandmother, but Ella has constantly insisted on the two of them packing up and moving again and again, running away from bad luck that clearly has something to do with her grandmother and the book she wrote.

When Ella disappears, seemingly kidnapped, Alice teams up with long-time Althea fan, Ellery Finch, and uses his knowledge of the stories to find her grandmother's secret estate - The Hazel Wood.

This first half(ish) seemed very slow and longer than necessary. It is mostly a road trip where the characters rely on fairy tale logic along the lines of if it wants you to find it, you will instead of smarts and deduction to keep the story moving. A romance develops but, to the author's credit, she never allows this to become a romantic book overall.

I found a lot of the story really hard to get through. Maybe because I struggled to form a connection with any character. Alice herself is cold and bitchy, without the depth and complexity needed to make these traits interesting. Ellery Finch is super hipster and must gaze at the moon and quote Shakespeare every few pages in order to keep functioning. He has a tattoo of a Vonnegut quote, of course. And the problem is these two are the only really valuable or memorable characters in the book.

The second half basically is Alice in Wonderland. Which may or may not sound appealing, but my tolerance level for random weirdness isn't that high.

My favourite parts were the Tales from the Hinterland fairy tales within the story, which were deliciously dark and creepy, but I disliked it every time we came back to "reality" with Alice and Finch. I kinda wish the author had written a book of short stories instead and let me skip out on everything else. I could definitely see myself enjoying a creepy short story collection from Albert.

So, yeah, definitely not for me, but I would recommend this for those who like Wonderland retellings, and those who enjoy really lyrical prose over characters and/or plot.

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Profile Image for emma.
1,866 reviews54.4k followers
September 17, 2023
Finally, I had an unpopular opinion………...but in the fun way!

Honestly, even though hating the books that everyone loves makes me feel #quirky and #unique and dare I say...not like other girls, it gets old. Hating the books your friends love = no fun.


Liking the books your friends hate, on the other hand: A BLAST.

All the shenanigans and special-snowflake-ness of an unpopular opinion with none of the pain and full-on suffering of reading a bad book! I should do this more often. Fingers crossed.

Now it’s time for the hard part of the review, when I have to explain why I liked the book. Which, in this case? Difficult.

Synopsis first. Let’s put the hard stuff off. Procrastination nation and all that!!!

Alice is a weirdo teenage girl who has been on the run with her mom, Ella, for her whole life. Not on the run from the law. As fun as that would be, this is EVEN MORE FUN: they are on the run from bad luck!!! Everywhere they go, bad luck follows them.

Then Alice’s grandmother dies. Ol’ Granny was the author of a cult-classic book of creeeepy fairytales. Alice has long been obsessed with her, but never met her - and never read the book, although she’s read all the information on it she can find. Once Grandmama dies, Alice’s mom, who she constantly calls by her first name like the lil rebel she is, is hype. She’s like, bad luck over! We’re moving to the Big Apple, baby.

And they do. Ella marries a reeeeaaaaally rich guy. Alice goes to a private school and works in an overpriced pretentious coffee shop. They’re living large.

Until Ella gets kidnapped, and Alice is forced to do exactly what she was told NOT to do: Team up with one of Grandmummy’s crazy fans (her semi-attractive classmate, Ellery Finch) and go to G-ma’s estate (The Hazel Wood).

I love fairytales, dark and creeeeepy ones most of all, so...pretty ideal for me. Yeah.

Now, good news or bad news first? Let’s do bad news.

Alice sucks.

Yes, the main character of this whole shindig. We do indeed spend the lion’s share of our time in her head. It’s not a buttered-popcorn-flavored jellybean level of unpleasant, but it’s not awesome.

Alice is very mean. Unnecessarily so. I am okay with a mean character sometimes, if they are also badass and/or smart, but Alice is not extremely either of those. It makes for a bumpy ride.

She is really obsessed with her mom, too. Like, actually the only relationship in her life is with her mom. It’s pretty toxic stuff. Never corrected, because of course not, but there are more books. Fingers crossed.

Alice sucks, and partner-in-crime extraordinaire Ellery Finch (who goes by his last name, as is the habit of the worst kinds of pretentious YA rich boys), is eh at best. So not off to a good start.

The other characters (Alice’s stepfather and stepsister; Ella; people who hop in and out of the narrative as is convenient) are not awesome either.

In most books, without-exception-sh*tty characters would be a dealbreaker. But not here, my dear boy! Au contraire, mon frère! They make up for it, almost, but not to the degree that I’d give it any more than 3.5 stars.

As mentioned, I love fairytales, and this feels very fairytaley. Which is extremely rare in YA, I think. It’s a particular feeling. It’s also really creepy! How cool is that! Also so rare! This book is atmospheric as hell and it full-on nails it.

I also lovelovelove the writing style. It is, as I literally just said, fairytaley/creepy/atmospheric. It is also beautiful, AND SO RICH IN DETAIL I COULD DIE OF HAPPINESS. I am obsessed with fun facts, but I don’t think those work super well outside of contemporary.

So it’s cool that this book did one better: it just entwined lots of details and allusions and names and places and objects and books and people and artists into the text, and made me Google. I LOVED IT. I Googled so many things and read so many Wikipedia pages in the course of this book. What more could you want?

It makes such a detailed, realistic world (v helpful for magical realism as bonkers as this) and is also just the best reading experience.

Also. Also also also: NO ROMANCE.




Okay, maybe traces. When you read “partnered up with semi-attractive boy of her own age,” or whatever equivalent phrase I wrote in my handy-dandy synopsis (yes, I am literally so lazy that I won’t scroll up in my own review, what of it) I’m sure you assumed “ah, there is the romance.”

Me too, baby blue. (Look at me making up expressions. It’s almost like this is the seventh review in a row I’m writing.) Anyway. There are romancey moments between Finch and Alice. Alice almost-but-not-quite feels something for him. It might be friendship.

Either way, they don’t end up together. (Spoiler?? I don’t know who cares! Does it count as a spoiler if it’s a good thing that should convince you to read the book?? Sorry if it does but also I disagree with you!) I don’t think they kiss either, unless I’ve forgotten a beautiful romantic moment between descriptions of pee-scented pillows.

And a YA fantasy without a romance is more refreshing than I can say.

Also, I want to read Tales from the Hinterland (Grandnanny’s book) so badly. If Melissa Albert is smart, or loves me or the world or both, she will write that spinoff.

Bottom line: I’ve never read a YA fantasy book like this!!! And it wasn’t perfect but I’m going to chase that feeling of uniqueness baby!


finally a reverse unpopular opinion!!! finally a book i like that none of my most trusted reviewers do!


is this supposed to teach me empathy? because i still feel fun and unique AND i had all the fun of liking a book.

review to come!!

currently-reading updates

an interesting way to read a book is by assuming it's an alice's adventures in wonderland retelling just because the protagonist is named alice and then slowly realizing it has nothing to do with that at all

but this is going swimmingly, considering
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.8k followers
May 29, 2018

ARC provided by Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful queen who thought words were stronger than anything. She used them to win love and money and gifts. She used them to carry her across the world.”

Let me just start this off by saying that I normally only one star something if it has very problematic content. This book only has one element that made me uncomfortable (that I will talk about later on), but the main reason I’m giving this one star is because it was so ungodly boring.

Next, and this could be completely my fault, I feel like this is marketed as a YA Fantasy, when it takes the reader almost 250 pages, out of a 360 page book, to even get into the fantasy aspect and by that time I couldn't care less about some pseudo Alice in Wonderland. This reads like a YA Contemporary Mystery and that is not a genre that I enjoy reading in the slightest, so maybe that is the main reason this didn’t work for me.

So the basic premise of The Hazel Wood is that a seventeen-year-old girl named Alice has been on the run with her mother, Ella, for as long as she can remember. They go from city to city, house to house, sometimes sleeping in their car, always on the run from the “bad luck” that follows them. Alice’s grandmother, Ella’s mother, is a very famous author who wrote a collection of short stories that are incredibly hard to find in today’s world. The short stories are very dark fairytales, that have netted her grandmother a very cult-like fanbase that totally gave me some Nightfilm vibes if I’m being completely honest.

Alice has never met her grandmother, and she’s never visited the exclusive estate she lives on called the Hazel Wood. But after Alice’s mother is kidnapped, she is desperate to find any means possible to finally visit the mysterious estate and to get her mother back once and for all.

But this book was so incredibly slow. I had to bribe myself with chocolates to even finish it. This is a 360 page book, and it took me SEVENTEEN days to read it. That’s a little over 20 pages a day. And that’s honestly all I could do, because I was so uninvested. And it’s actually mindboggling to me that this book is even 360 pages long, because I feel like everything could have taken place in 150-200 pages, too.

And Alice is such an unlikeable main character that isn’t supposed to be an unlikeable main character. She’s so rude, and self-centered, and unable to recognize her privilege because she can’t get over the fact that she grew up poor. She talks over people, and is demanding, and refuses to acknowledge her mistakes. I could never and will never connect with her, and it was honestly miserable to be inside of her head.

So, the problematic element is the treatment of the biracial side character who Alice spends most of the book with. Finch is the only person of color in this book, and Alice constantly remarks on how unattractive he is, and it feels really bad. Then, when they get into an altercation with a police officer, Finch tries to explain to Alice about racial profiling and how he feels uncomfortable being around cops and being noncompliant around cops, while Alice just completely disregards his very valid feelings by saying he’s rich and privileged. Like that negates the color of his skin and the racism he faces every single day because of it, because she grew up poor and on the run with her mom. On top of the fact that Alice will never let Finch speak, because she’s always interrupting and talking over him. It just reads badly and made my very uncomfortable while reading. Also, Alice even got physically abusive a couple times and I just wasn't there for it at all.

The other minor thing that just made me feel a little uncomfortable while reading was that this book kind of romanticizes kidnapping. Like, Alice has very fond memories of being kidnapped when she was six and it feels almost like glorifying it. Maybe this just rubbed me the wrong way because I was always deathly afraid of being kidnapped as a child, but I didn’t enjoy reading her memories on kidnapping whatsoever, either.

And the last thing is that the deus ex machina in this book is very strong. So many things just so conveniently happened, especially at the end of this book when we are finally in a fairytale land, to wrap up this story.

The only thing I truly liked about this book were the two chapters that were stories that Finch was retelling to Alice from inside her Grandmother’s book, Tales from the Hinterland. Both of these were honestly great, and I enjoyed them immensely and it showcased that the author does have talent for writing. Unfortunately, this is only two chapters of a thirty-one chapter book. But both of those short stories were good and I enjoyed each one more than the rest of this entire book combined

Also, have you seen the finished copy of this? With its foil sprayed pages? Holy moly, it’s honestly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever laid eyes upon. But you all know what they say about judging books by their covers…

This book just wasn’t for me or my tastes. We aren’t even in 2018 yet and I can tell you that this will 100% make my most disappointing publications of 2018 list. And from all my friends’ reviews, I truly think this is going to just be a polarizing book! People are going to hate and dread picking it up, or they are going to be completely engrossed, love, and devour it. And you guys know that just because I disliked this book, it doesn’t mean that your feelings are invalid. If you liked this book then I am truly happy for you, but this book just really didn’t work for me. And if you do decide to pick this one up, I hope you find way more enjoyment within its pages than I did.

Content warnings for underage alcohol consumption, drug use, self-harm, talk of suicide, and mild violence.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Jenn! ❤

This was in the February 2018 OwlCrate box!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 24, 2021

My mother was raised on fairy tales, but I was raised on highways.
Ever since Alice could remember, she's been on the run with her mother from bad luck.
I remembered less from my own life than I did from the books I read.
Alice's grandmother was the author of The Hazel Wood - a haunting collection of scary fairy tales - that despite Alice's curiosity, her mother forbade even speaking of them.

And then one day, Alice's mother disappeared. And the people (creatures?) that took her look startlingly like the same ones Alice knew from her brief glances in stolen copies of her grandmother's book.

And all that's left is a cryptic note saying
Stay away from the Hazel Wood
Alice knows what she must do - travel to the Hinterland and go to the Hazel Wood - but in a world of bloody, brutal fairy tales, the heroine hardly ever makes it back unscathed.
She smiled at me, a tender smile that sent fear jackrabbiting through my blood.

This one is STUNNING.

Literally I could not put it down.

I LOVE the concept of fairy tales coming to life - and for them to be this creepy and disturbing - ooo, it gave me chills.

The fairy tale people were so well drawn out in just a few brushstrokes that I was constantly impressed and amazed by them.

I also loved the love for literature in this book.
She talked like a woman who knew more books than people.
I really cannot stop gushing over it.

All I really want now is a copy of the original Hinterland Tales. I really, truly cannot stop thinking about it!!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,942 followers
December 29, 2018
UPDATE: $2.99 Kindle US 12/29/18


Here is the Fairyloot Box. I told y'all I would have both of my subscription boxes with the same book. As usual, look for the link under the picture.


This OWLCRATE picture is crap y'all. Don't ask, but as usual, click on the link below picture to see the unboxing & some other surprises ♥


Well, there are not that many great reviews for this on my friends list. So let's see how it goes!

I think I jinxed it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just wasn't feeling it and that makes me sad =( But, we can't love them all.

I did enjoy the character of Finch, he was my favorite!

"Hi," I said, flustered. I was on my way home from work. My shirt was covered in scone crumbs and my hair was spiked with sweat.

"You smell like a coffee bean," he said when we reached the corner. "It's awesome." He glanced back at the restaurant, his face so full of regret I almost laughed. "Okay, I better get back."

"Back to stabbing your dessert."

His smile reached his eyes then, just for a moment. A flicker of light on dark water. Then he swung around and walked back up the sidewalk.

I'm sure more people will love the book. There seems to be a ton of people on Amazon that love it already so there is that.

Anyway, on to the next!

Happy Reading!

Mel ���

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

Profile Image for Sabaa Tahir.
Author 23 books32.2k followers
February 1, 2018
Holy Hinterland crows, that was good. Read this at night, with a cup of tea and the lights dimmed so you can be scared silly like I was. :D :D
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
March 15, 2018
3 Stars. Not my favorite book I’ve ever read, but still enjoyable.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this book. The writing was fine. The characters were okay. The world was probably the most interesting element of the story, but nothing amazing in my opinion. I really enjoyed how the story takes place in modern day New York City and the fairytale elements are hidden beneath. I found the fairytales/whimsical elements of the story to be it’s strongest point. I genuinely enjoyed my time listening to this story on audiobook, but I don’t feel it has many incredible aspects. Additionally, I did lose focus nearing the end of the story. Stories became jumbled and it left me feeling as if the ending has less impact than it intended to.

I find one of the biggest critiques of this novel is that the main character, Alice, is immensely rude, disrespectful, hyper-critical and ill-tempered which is 100% true. That being said, her personality/behavior is integral to the story and does have a purpose, so it didn’t bother me all that much. Given, every time Alice made an effort to point out her “rage issues”, I totally rolled my eyes, but it didn’t make me significantly more frustrated than other unlikeable main characters. I understand the valid criticisms of how Alice treats the only person of color in the story because that was a bit more off-putting than her other traits. There is a scene where Finch, a biracial character, tries to calmly explain why Alice provoking a police officer in his company can be dangerous and Alice completely brushes off his concerns, trivializing the racism he experiences because he comes from money. (It was obvious to me that this scene was intended to be a lesson in privilege and we were meant to side with Finch, but as it is from Alice’s perspective and there is no correction of her behavior on her part, her voice is more dominant so I can completely see the flaws in execution of this scene. It was just messy.) I will also mention that I actually enjoyed the fact that this story followed a main character who grew up in poverty and without a stable home – Situations like this are not common in YA and it was nice to see a character who constantly moved from place to place, have been kicked out by people they stay with, always on the road and have a parent who is always working odd jobs to make ends meet. Alice isn’t the worst main character I’ve ever read about (though she’s pretty close to the bottom), but I don’t feel much affection for her. Finch was by far my favorite character in the story (though there aren’t many others to choose from) and I really wish he had gotten more development instead of being constantly pushed off to the side. He had great potential, but it didn’t really follow through.

I did enjoy The Hazel Wood but it’s not a very memorable book for me. I think the synopsis was so strong and there was so many possibilities for this book to be amazing, but I don’t think it followed the strongest route. It’s just one of those books that I didn’t love or hate either, that I had a good time reading, but have more distinct critiques than positives to share.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,480 reviews79k followers
December 5, 2017
"Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

You know those Disney princess fairytales, the ones where the damsel in distress is saved by Prince Charming and they get married and live happily ever after? Yeah, this isn't that story. Think of the old school Brother's Grimm fairytales, and then imagine something even darker and you'll have a clear picture of what this book holds for you. That's not a criticism; one of the surest ways to get me to commit to reading a book is to tell me it's an old school fairytale. I am a hardcore sucker for these wicked little snippets into an alternate world, and this debut felt like it was written by a seasoned pro with all the bells and whistles you could ask for.

When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn't stay long enough to wash her.

We're dropped into the story about midway; the first few chapters are meant to give us some background on Alice, her mother Ella, and her grandmother Althea Prosperine, who became famous by writing a book of fairytales. This book was titled Tales From The Hinterland and it contained a total of twelve brief stories. The cool part about The Hazel Wood is that we get to read a couple of these first hand within the story (Three Times Alice and The Door That Wasn't There), while also getting brief snippets from most of the rest of them toward the end. This aspect was so unique and compelling that I felt a little breathless at the end. I wanted every story verbatim! I feel like, if the author so chose, she could write Tales From The Hinterland, binding and fully fleshing out all twelve stories in a volume to sell as a companion novel and we the people would EAT. IT. UP. Seriously, please please pretty please?

So Alice remembers being kidnapped at the age of six by a strange man with red hair claiming to take her to visit her recluse of a grandmother, but she was never harmed and never laid eyes on Althea. Strange things begin to happen, such as Alice spotting the mysterious redheaded man a decade after her last sighting of him, her mother and herself receiving a letter stating Althea has passed away, and finally, Ella disappearing under very strange circumstances. Alice has no one to turn to other than a recently made acquaintance named Ellery Finch, who is a mega super borderline stalker fan of Althea's work. His money and affluent nature allow them to forge a shaky bond and they decide to set off on a journey to do the very thing Alice's mother warned her not to do-visit the Hazel Wood. <---Name of Althea Prosperine's vast estate in upstate New York

I hated needing something from someone when I had absolutely nothing to offer back. You'd think, after the upbringing I'd had, I'd at least be used to it.

I wouldn't call Alice a likable character, but she was certainly a compelling lead. I felt just as befuddled as she did along this journey; I honestly had no clue where this story would take us and was just as shocked as Alice at every twist and turn. While there was no sexual content whatsoever in this book (at least that I remember), it still made me give pause to what age range this book would be most appropriate for. Certainly the older side of the spectrum, as this was disturbing, unsettling, and contained a good bit of graphic violence/horror within the stories. I was warned many times over about how truly dark this book is, but I didn't think it was something I'd blink an eye at, not with all the graphic murder mystery/thrillers I read, but this was different. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly provoked this sense of unease I felt; perhaps it was the not so light way the story was wrapped up? There isn't much levity to be found here; if you're the type of reader looking for a happy ending you most certainly have come to the wrong place.

Originally I gave this book 4 stars, but I've decided to bump it up to a full 5, seeing as it's been almost a full week since I finished it and I cannot stop thinking about it. This quirky little novel has been jostling other stories I am currently reading, vying for attention in my head and further pondering, so for that reason, I think I need to give credit where credit is due. This book certainly won't be for everyone, but I think the fans of dark fairytales and things that go bump in the night will wholly appreciate the author's ability to conjure up such a complex tale that was detailed and, quite frankly, brilliant. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

Book #4 in my Nebulous November challenge!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
January 25, 2019
this is the first book that has made me think that the author statements/praise on the back cover are completely made up. i mean, unless i have a defect copy, the fact that stephanie garber, karen mcmanus, seanan mcguire AND jennifer niven all adored this is highly suspicious, because this story is a hot mess.

reading this (the plot specifically) reminded me of every time i have to untangle my headphones - it only becomes more and more of a mess until i get so frustrated and i throw them across the room. i thought that if i continued reading, the plot would become more clear and make sense, but instead it became more muddled and absurd. i also had issues with the lack of character development, inconsistent world building, and erratic pacing.

overall, this is just a really poor execution of an unique, and what was a potentially interesting, story. such a shame.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for High Lady of The Night Court.
135 reviews5,083 followers
February 12, 2019
"And while they're being told, stories create the energy that makes this world go. They keep our stars in place. They make our grass grow."

You want to read a mysterious, crazily intriguing book, this is it. My heart was racing for the first 7 chapters because I had no idea what was going to happen and during the rest because I couldn’t wait to see where the Story was going (pun intended- if you’ve read it you’ll understand).

This is just so AMAZING. I don’t know how it possible to make something so interesting and addicting. I couldn’t stop even once, it’s crazy really, in the entire book not even one word was boring or out of place. I feel like I’m going to burst into hysterical laughter if I start talking about it because I can’t wait for the next book and I can’t accept the fact that the book is over. The whole thing was so well planned and the book did justice to the concept which was also great. The world itself is written very descriptively which helped picture the very fictional and fantastical world and characters. It was so much more interesting because nearly every other character had their own agenda and were playing their own angle.

In this world, Althea Proserpine was a famous writer who wrote the books Tales of Hinterland. This book is an enigma, there are no traces of it online and very few people have read it and those who have read it are borderline addicted to it and Althea, Once this book was published Althea Proserpine moved into an estate called The Hazel Wood and fans all over the world have tried to locate it with no avail. And just like that Althea Proserpine was never again seen on the face of the Earth and eventually the theories and rumours died down, but Althea’s daughter Ella moved out of The Hazel Wood when she was young and raised her daughter Alice away from anything related to Althea and her fairytales and forbade her from researching or reaching out to Althea.

But all her life Alice and her mother have been moving from place to place without ever settling down because if they ever stay in one place for too long bad luck just seems to follow them and bring a whole lot of destruction along with it. But a few years ago Alice got a letter informing her of Althea Proserpine’s death and at that moment onwards she built a stable life for herself and her daughter. But now Alice has been taken by someone who claims to be from Hinterland, the very world Althea based all her stories on, which now turns out to be real. And if the world is real so must be the stories.

The fairytales Althea wrote were not our average fairy tales with happy endings, they were gruesome tales generally with savage endings and characters who held no semblance of humanity. Now that Hinterland has proved to be real Alice will have to have navigate a world of the darkest stories in existence to rescue her mother, with the help of Finch who happens to be one of her grandmothers cultish superfans who remembers every story in the book.

This book grabbed my attention in the beginning and held it all the way to the end. The world within this world is one of the most interesting I have ever read. The concept of the Hinterland and the Hazel Wood was written with a lot of clarity which increases the pace of the book. Everything about this book dragged me in and the next book has a lot of intrigue to live up to. I rate this book 5 stars.
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
489 reviews39k followers
February 11, 2018

1) I heard that this book had The Raven Boys vibes and I was sooo excited to read this book and find out more as to why it resembled one of my favorites series of all time BUT......



People say,

"Oh, the writing!"
"Oh, the atmosphere!"
"Oh, the story!"


Holy fucking moly.

2) People are comparing this to a'darker' tale mashup of 'Alice in Wonderland' buuttt this book really reminded me of Night Film..


Because literally there were so many parts of the book (last 2/3s) that vaguely did not make sense to me and even after rereading certain passages I just gave up. I just couldn't grasp the full of it.

It was so confusing; sure the writing was good and the premise of the story overall is actually really intriguing and unique....but I just couldn't grasp the finality of certain passages of scenes in the book???

Or maybe I'm just too stupid to understand lmao.

3) Alice, the main character.....my god so annoooyyyinnggg. She is an unlikable character made to be unlikable to be liked as a flawed character but I couldn't do it. She was so arrogant and selfish sometimes I just wanted to shout at her. Also the way she treated another person of color, a boy, was just plain ignorant and fucking stupid. They got stopped by a cop and he told her how he was uncomfortable around them and about his skin color and literally this white girl tells him to shut up and goes off about how he is super rich and has a ton of privilege....


She was gonna run their car into a fucking tree because she got to pissed at this conversation and I was so fucking iritated I put the book down and drank a glass of water.

Irrelevant but still.

Alice, honey, grow the fuck up.

Literally this book was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and so far, two of my most anticipated reads have been let downs and now I'm just flat out annoyed writing this stupid review and I was going to give this book three stars because it wasn't that bad but NOT and I'm going to be a petty ass bitch and give this fucking book two stars imsofuckingannoyedrightnowwhyisthishappeningughomgoooooodddddd

FUCK. skldmf ASDF BNKWEFHHSFDSJL J kjsfn kjadsfh2341284uO

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Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,625 followers
October 2, 2020
[Edit: 8/30/2019] - OMG, it has an IMDB Page!!
One of my favorite books is going to be a movie...

I'm very glad my slump made me not read this in the summer this saving it for October so I could listen to the audiobook. (Which was narrated by my favorite narrator Rebecca Soler!!).

Anyway, this is a really unique book. It's kind of a fairy tale retelling except it's not actually retelling any tales. So I guess it's not a retelling. Basically, Alice what-her-last-name and her Mom are on the run from their bad luck. But soon Alice starts seeing characters from her Grandmother's mysterious fairy tale book. So basically it's like a dark version of Land of Stories. Soon enough Alice's mom disappears So Alice enlists the help of... Of Shaun? Seamus? I honestly don't remember his name hold on....
*Googles *
Nope I can't find anything.... I'm just gonna call him Shaun.. So Alice Proserpine! That's her name! Anyway, Alice enlists the help of Shaun to figure out what is going on and where her mother went.

The travel all over the place to dig up clues and try to figure out where to go and who to find. At the end, there is a major plot twist and it was amamzing!! In the end, I love this whole novel. It was creative, clever and unique.

Bottom Line:
5 Stars: WOW
Age Recommendation: 12+ (Some scary themes and scenes)
TW: Abuse

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
April 7, 2021
Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Alice Proserpine has always led a drifter’s life with her mother Ella. They scrape by on the edge of homelessness, constantly moving from place to place, staying with friends until they wear out their welcome, bad luck relentlessly dogging their footsteps wherever they go. And they never speak about Ella’s mother Althea, a reclusive author who lives in a grand, nearly impossible to find estate called the Hazel Wood, and who was famous for Tales from the Hinterland, a mysterious, nearly impossible to find collection of dark and bloody fairy tales. All Alice knows about this tantalizing book (before her mother snatched it away from her, never to be seen again) is the titles of the stories, including the intriguingly named “Alice-Three-Times.”

When Ella gets word that Althea has died, she’s determined to stop running from life. She marries a rich New Yorker after a whirlwind courtship and she and Alice try ― or not ― to adjust to a different lifestyle. Alice is seething with anger and frustration most of the time, and Ella’s marriage rapidly begins fraying.

Then their lives get upended again, but in a way that blindsides Alice: Ella is kidnapped by two people who say they are from the Hinterland. She disappears without a trace, leaving behind only a message for Alice: “Stay the hell away from the Hazel Wood.” Which message, of course, Alice has absolutely no intention of heeding. Alice enlists her friend Ellery Finch, a longtime fan of Tales from the Hinterland, to help her in her search. But she has no idea where to find the Hazel Wood, or what awaits her there.

The Hazel Wood begins as a quirky, bleak urban fantasy set in our contemporary world. In the first half of the book the plot unrolls at a leisurely pace, enlivened only by Ella’s kidnapping, Alice’s search for the Hazel Wood, and some occasional run-ins with suspicious dark characters. But the murky horror of the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland cast a gloom over every page, reinforced by Finch’s occasional retelling of some of the stories from the copy of Tales of the Hinterland that he read long ago.

The pace picks up in the second half when the novel suddenly shifts gears to a dark fairy tale type of setting. I enjoyed the creativity and fantasy of this part of the novel much more than the first part, though I was underwhelmed at a couple of key points: the climactic scene and the ending both struck me as weak.

Melissa Albert’s writing, though Alice’s first person narrative voice, was a major plus for me. Her language is lush and evocative, though I’ll admit it sometimes sidles toward purple prose:
There was a funny glitter in [Ella’s] eyes as she watched herself in the mirror. I thought of that later, when she came home with a twin glitter on her ring finger: a rock as big as the Ritz.

My memory of that night is tattered, a movie screen clawed to pieces. The glint of the ring lodged in my eye like a shard of demon glass, and the anger overwhelmed me.
The main character, Alice, is rude, inconsiderate, foul-mouthed and, more often than not, angry; certainly not an easy character to appreciate. She's not at all politically correct, so readers sensitive to those nuances have an additional reasons to be perturbed with her point of view. Alice's main good point is her deep devotion and love for Ella. I wasn’t as irritated by her as Ray and Jana (my FanLit co-reviewers) were, partly because the reason for her irascible nature, when finally disclosed, was an unusual and compelling one. Still, the amount of swearing (a Kindle search informs me that there are 22 F-bombs in this book) was a definite turn-off for me for a YA fantasy.

At one point Finch tells Alice:
"I got my hands on Althea’s book. And it was perfect. There are no lessons in it. There’s just this harsh, horrible world touched with beautiful magic, where shitty things happen. And they don’t happen for a reason, or in threes, or in a way that looks like justice. They’re set in a place that has no rules and doesn’t want any."
Much the same could be said of this book: It’s harsh and flawed but there’s creativity and beauty in it. Despite its shortcomings, I enjoyed The Hazel Wood.

I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley for review. Thanks!
Profile Image for Riley.
429 reviews21.7k followers
February 3, 2018
This book took me almost 4 months to read because every time I picked it up I just felt dread. That may be a bit harsh considering I really enjoyed the beginning of this book but I quickly found that it just was not what I expected or wanted.

This was marketed as a fantasy so I was very confused when the fantastical elements didn't even come into the book until 2/3 of the way. If you're gonna sell me a fantasy you better deliver.

I also was very uncomfortable with the way Finch, the only person of color, was treated. Alice the main character constantly refers to him as unattractive. And there is one scene in particular where they are stopped by a police officer whom Alice tries to provoke and Finch explains to her that it is dangerous for someone who looks like him to be disrespectful to cops and she just totally disregards and brushes him off.

Problematic content aside, this book just wasn't for me. Maybe another type of reader could find enjoyment out of it but I was very disappointed.
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 10 books4,397 followers
March 6, 2018
UPDATE: I've been getting this question a lot, so I'll answer it here: The Hazel Wood is not an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I just like the name Alice. ;)

For the curious: a first chapter excerpt lives here: http://ew.com/books/2017/06/07/meliss...

(And thanks for being curious!)
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,352 followers
January 30, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Alice has never had reason to believe her grandmother's book of dark fairy tales is founded in truth - until now. When her mother is kidnapped by a mysterious figure who claims to be from the Hinterland – the dangerous supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set – she must join forces with a classmate, Ellery Finch, whose cult-love of her grandmother's fairy tales are the key to finding the realm where her mother is being held captive.

The Hazel Wood pays homage to fables and fairy tales by occasionally making light references to stories such as "The Three Little Pigs" when Alice questions, "If you've spent your whole life running, how do you learn to stand still? How do you figure out the right way to turn your straw house into brick?"* or "Hansel and Gretel" and "Rumpelstiltskin" when Althea Proserpine (Alice's grandmother) is asked by an interviewer how to get to her house in the Hazel Wood and she replies, "You'd get lost on the way to finding me. You'd need breadcrumbs or a spool of thread."*

Albert's prose flip-flops between lyrical and sensory to novice and bumbling. Some descriptions are liable to make readers swoon. "Everything was echo and pulse, float and stretch, sleep and wake and a distant hunger,"* Albert writes of Alice's experience waking after having been knocked out. "A distant ray. I nipped at it like sugar water. Then a whoosh and a wrenching in my core, and the velvet dark ripped open."* When Alice watches Ellery open an old book, Albert drops readers into the scene by stating, "a scent rose from its pages, the honey must of old print and something else - something sweet."*

Albert's floral descriptions, however, are flattened by her irritating dependence on an awkward, redundant sentence structure employed to either regale readers with laughably bad similes or to spoon-feed her audience. For example:

Seeing it gave me a hot and cold feeling, like sweating in a winter coat.*

The gun was drooping, like his arm was a dying stem.*

She exhaled hard and spitty, like having to deal with me was too much to bear.*

He bounced on the soles of his feet, like he was about to take off.*

Further shortcomings include a lackluster protagonist, a feeble attempt to touch on social issues, and a befuddling categorization in Young Adult literature when this book lacks the youthfulness of YA and more readily belongs with Adult Fiction. Perhaps publishers hoped to capitalize on Albert's professional career as the editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog? "She writes for teens, so her novel must be for teens," is a mathematical approach that doesn't quite compute in this situation.

The Hazel Wood presents itself as a dark, foreboding tale but proves to be light reading. This over-hyped book with surface-level characters is neither creepy nor memorable.

*Note: All quotes taken from an Advanced Reader Copy.

Special thanks to Flatiron Books for providing a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Heather.
403 reviews16.9k followers
December 23, 2018
This book was so deliciously dark & creepy.
Overall I really enjoyed it but it just wasn't a full 5/5 for me.
The main character was horribly mean and made me not like the book as much.
I did enjoy the actual stories from 'Tales from the Hinterland' a ton though, that I would love to see a full length novel of.
I enjoyed the concept of this book but the second half got a little weird and took many different directions and honestly was hard to keep up with.
I would recommend this if you like dark, creepy tales with very descriptive writing.


Video review to come soon.
Profile Image for Eliza.
596 reviews1,378 followers
February 14, 2018

This was…well, I mean — ugh, this is disappointing to say, but this just wasn’t good ya’ll. And believe me, as someone who was waiting to read this since last year, I’m extremely disappointed right now. I mean, the synopsis sounded great, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. The beautiful cover only made my wait that much worse. And what did I get? A story that was not even average. I swear, once I got past the halfway mark I just wished the novel would end already, and that’s never a good sign.

Normally, I’m a sucker for novels that mix modern-day elements with fairytales (like recently I read and loved The Cruel Prince), but this one just didn’t do it for me. And while these moments are rare, where I don’t find anything incredibly intriguing in a “modern fairytale” novel, I can’t even go ahead and label this as “imaginative,” because it wasn’t. The writing made it difficult for me to image anything, and a never found myself “wowed” by anything going on — and come on, it’s so easy to “wow” your audience, especially when you’re mixing in fairytale elements. But, I mean, I’m not saying this wasn’t original — so, at least it had that. The whole idea of a fictional storybook actually being written off of real characters that walk amongst us was pretty cool.

So, again. A great idea, but poor execution. Such a shame.

Oh yeah, I should probably mention something about Alice or Finch. Speaking of the main character, Alice, I’m now wondering if this was intended to be a spin-off of Alice in Wonderland in some way? I mean, she does end up in a weird world…but, not my accident or anything. Ah, I don’t know. Either way, Alice was an OK character. She had some outbursts that didn’t make sense to me, but I wasn’t invested enough in the story to care too much.

Then there’s Finch. I liked him in the beginning, when he seemed like a poor little rich boy — but once the story continued, I grew bored of his character in general. There just wasn’t anything special about him.

Overall, I’m super bummed to be rating this so lowly, but what can I say? It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Y'all. This sounds positively creepy and amazing. I love eerie fairy tale stories. 😢 2018 needs to come quicker.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
June 25, 2018
This started off SO strong, but I feel like the first half and the second half were completely different books. Even though I’m not usually into fantasy, I would have easily given the first half 5 stars, but then the second half happened and I just 😐 ugh. What a let down. I will read more from this author in the future because I know she has potential to write a book I’ll love, but this one just was not it. Womp.
Profile Image for kate.
1,223 reviews948 followers
January 16, 2018
Alice in Wonderland meets Inkheart in Melissa Albert's dark and twisty modern day fairytale, The Hazel Wood.

I have to say that enjoyed the first half more so than the second, as it was less fantasy and more twisted contemporary mystery, which I loved. I also felt the ending was a little rushed and therefore there were parts of the world and plot I couldn't quite get a grasp on. Having said that, I really enjoyed both Alice and Finch as characters and overall found The Hazel Wood to be a fast paced and enjoyable read, with intriguing characters, dark worlds and a unique plot.
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,338 reviews353 followers
August 18, 2017
About: The Hazel Wood is a young adult fantasy written by Melissa Albert. It will be published on 1/30/2018 by Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publisher, 368 pages. The genres are young adult, fantasy, and fiction. This book is intended for readers ages 12 to 18. This is the author’s debut novel.

My Experience: I started reading The Hazel Wood on 8/6/17 and finished it on 8/18/17. I love reading this book, despite some creepy elements in it. It keeps me at the edge of my seats. The bad luck gives me goose bumps and makes me hold my breath but I could hardly put down the book. This book is fantastic! The fairytales within the fantasy is excellent! It’s unlike anything I have ever read before and I love that it’s different. I like that I could not guess what will happen next and when Alice share her past experiences, it’s always a pleasant surprise.

In this book, readers will follow the point of view of Alice Crewe (aka Alice Proserpine) as she and her mom move away yet again from the bad luck that is chasing them everywhere they go. Growing up, Alice and her mom Ella moved often from state to state and live temporary at family and friends’ house until bad luck catches up to them and they would have to move again. This bad luck involves Alice’s grandmother, Althea Proserpine and the series of fairy tales of Hinterland that she authored. Alice has never read the stories no matter how hard she looked for them. On the internet, all she can find are fans of the book. The book is rare and few collectors have possessions of it. Despite using a different last name from her grandmother, classmate and superfan of the fairytale, Ellery Finch knows exactly who Alice is. Finch shows signs of crushing on Alice but since Alice moves often, she doesn’t want to get close to anyone. When her mom goes missing and it feels connected to her late grandmother, Alice relies on Finch to help find her mom because he has more knowledge of the highly sought after fairytale. In their search for Alice’s mom, they stumble upon many unexpected turns and it gets creepier the closer they get!

This book is very well written and I love how original it is. The fairytale of Alice-Three-Times is creepy yet addicting! I like the fairytale on The Door That Wasn’t There. The idea on bad luck chasing and how the photo was taken of Alice and Finch sleeping at David’s house gives me the creeps. I love the robbery at one of the house Alice stayed at, where the bookshelf holds something other than books! I smile at that. The plot and characters are all very interesting! This fantasy is truly one of a kind. It’s unpredictable and I highly recommend everyone to read this book!

Pro: cover, originality, fairytales, bad luck, suspense, mystery, couldn’t put down, fast paced, page turner, adrenaline rush, creepily captivating, some humor

Con: none

I rate it 5 stars!

***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for a detailed review
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,221 reviews1,561 followers
November 6, 2017
At seventeen Alice had never known what it was like to have a real home, she and her mother were always on the move as far back as she can remember. Alice knew that somewhere out there she had a grandmother that lived on her estate, the Hazel Wood, although Alice had never been to meet or visit her. Her grandmother though was famous from writing a book that Alice had never been able to read, a book of fairy tales of Hinterland.

One day Alice catches her mother with a letter that she finds out has news of her grandmother's passing. Immediately Alice thinks they will finally visit Hazel Wood but her mother immediately refuses. Before Alice knows it she finds that her mother has gone missing and with the help of a boy who had been a huge fan of her grandmother's stories Alice finds herself finally learning the truth of Hinterland.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a young adult fantasy read that takes the reader into the darker world of fairy tales. Alice Crewe and her mother have obviously been on the run from something for years and when her mother gets taken Alice finds herself heading straight into the world within the pages of her grandmother's book. These tales are quite creepy and are sure to keep a reader engaged and on the edge of their seat while reading.

My one complaint with this really came with the time it took to get to the creepier section of the story. There was quite a lot build up until that point and I would have preferred a quicker jump into this side of the story. Otherwise I found the book to be quite compelling with great writing and interesting characters and story line. I think fans of young adult fantasy reads with a darker vibe to them should certainly enjoy this one.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
August 4, 2018
I enjoyed the first half of the book because of all the mystery and potential. The easy pacing and small fantastical elements were like comfort food. However, the second half lost my interest once it dived into a string of nonsensical fairy-tale events. The character development and ending were unsatisfying. I didn't hate it, but it's a bit of a shame that the book didn't stick to the landing when it had more potential.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,854 reviews1,640 followers
February 18, 2018
I will start by saying - this is an incredibly talked about book pre-publication and despite me loving everything the synopsis detailed, I was a tad worried that, like other massively hyped novels, that it would be a let down - I needn't have been concerned, this book is magnificent.

I have certainly noticed that it has polarised opinion quite a bit but I can't understand why as I wouldn't have changed anything about it, it was a fantastic read for January and the start of a whole new reading year. Also, a quick note of appreciation for the cover - absolutely gorgeous!

I have worried a fair bit since finishing it about writing the review with my primary concern being doing the novel justice. I genuinely think this is one of those that you need to read as I don't think any review can convey the magic and enchanting nature of the story. It has managed to leave a lasting impression on me as I haven't stopped thinking about it since wrapping it up. I am still thinking about the upcoming books Albert is writing - 1) the sequel (The Hazel Wood #2) and 2) a companion book filled with the Fairytales of the Hinterland. Both of these I am going stir crazy for already! They seem like an eternity away. I'm now desperately searching for similar books to keep me entertained until these have been offered as ARC's or published.

I am also pleased to hear that the film rights have been purchased, I would definitely pay to see it once it has been completed. I am guessing that'll be quite a few years away yet though. I am happy that I have read the book before the watching the movie as it can sometimes create a very different experience the other way around.

Synopsis - 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.

Setting - The plot takes place in two very different world's - New York City is where Alice and Ella are living when Ella goes missing. On a mission to rescue her Alice and Finch try to discover a way into the deceptive world of the Hazel Wood. Most of the first half of the book is set in NYC and is where Albert masterfully introduces and fleshes out the characters. Finch, who is a Tales of the Hinterland super fan, starts seeing characters from the Hinterland in and around NY so the worlds overlap slightly. The second half is mainly based in The Hazel Wood with Finch and Alice searching for Ella but she returns to NYC at the end of the book.

Main Characters - Alice is a steely-minded and tenacious girl who seems to have issues with her anger at many points during the novel. I admired her the most for the love she had for her mother, Ella - she stopped at nothing to try and reach and rescue her despite feeling scared. I feel I would react in the same way if my mum went missing or was taken. Ella is Alice's "mother" and her and Alice have an amazing bond between them. This bond is a main focus of the book as it endures even when Ella disappears propelling Alice into a shadowy world. Finch is a boy from Alice's school who has been a big admirer of Tales of the Hinterland and of the mysterious Althea. Then there are Alice and Finch's families plus a few other peripheral figures both in the real world and the Hazel Wood. Such unique characters that I am still thinking about weeks and weeks after finishing I know this won't be a read that I soon forget.

Prose/Writing - Albert's writing is magical and engaging from the very beginning - it took no time at all to get into the story and be invested in its journey and outcome. Lush, lyrical and well structured with a flow that makes it difficult to put down, a beautiful piece of creativity. One thing I was told to expect was a change in the writing style after the 50% mark and I know that a few people have mentioned the change in their comments with me or in reviews. Whilst I do agree that there is a change and the prose is noticeably less descriptive I didn't experience a reduction in my enjoyment due to that. The first half and second half do feel different and distinct due to this aspect but I thought it was a brave move to change it up a little. I guess people will make up their own minds but I must stress that the change does not mean that the quality of the story and all the other nuts and bolts suffer, in my opinion.

One thing that strikes me about the book is the vivid imagination it would have taken to dream up and put together. The genre and story couldn't have been more perfect for me - a fairytale that is dark and disturbing in nature you say? Hell, yeah! A delicious recipe of YA with added Mystery - the two genres I adore!

It's going to be a hard road awaiting the upcoming books but it could have been worse had this been a standalone only, I would have been pretty sad had that of been the case as it was a pleasure to read and I only hope that a talent like Albert pens many, many more books similar in genre once this series has come to a close.

If you are a fan of darker fairytales (Grimm), YA and Mystery genres I wouldn't hesitate to reach for this one. I've purchased a copy for my bookshelf as I know I'll read it again before the new ones appear just to refresh. Well executed and simply mesmeric this is a novel that will knock your socks off!

Albert's got IT! In spades.

I would like to thank Penguin Random House Children's, Melissa Albert and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lucy.
417 reviews625 followers
June 5, 2018
This book was AMAZING!! I haven't particularly read any fantasy books (other than repeatedly rereading Harry Potter) and it was refreshing to read this.

This was my kind of fairytale- more of a Grimms fairytale than a Disney one. I loved the dark tones to this book and the darkness of the stories mentioned in "Tales of the Hinterland", the tales that are mentioned through out this book.

This book enabled me to really develop my imagination. From creatures to the settings of dark dark woods. This book was also suspenseful and fast paced that I just did not want to put it down.

I wish the author would write a book solely on the Tales of the Hinterland! I'd definitely buy it!

I absolutely loved the main character- Alice Proserpine. She may sometimes be described as an "unlikeable" character but antiheroines are always my favourite.

Overall this story was a great way to get me back into reading fantasy and fairy tale books. It is a book that I'm excited about rereading. I'm looking forward to reading future works by this author.
Profile Image for Anika.
166 reviews121 followers
July 10, 2018
*****I received this book for free from a Goodreads giveaway*****

2 stars.

I was really disappointed with this book. It was my first and probably only ARC I will ever get, and it was a let down.

This book started off super strong for me. I flew through the first 80 or so pages, the writing really sucked me in. The beginning was so addicting learning about Alice and her mom Ella, and their past.

Then it took an Alice in Wonderland turn, and I stopped enjoying it. It’s not that I don’t like Alice in Wonderland, but I’m ok with it staying in its own story. This really felt so similar to the Wonderland world and I was not a fan.

The main character Alice was only slightly like-able. What I liked about her most was how much she loved her mom. Other than that, she cussed all the time and was super rude.

I can’t really think of a character I really liked to be honest. Once we were introduced to more characters, I was already to the point of not caring what happened.

This book was just not for me 🤷‍♀️

Profile Image for Camile Souza (This Chamber of Books).
164 reviews892 followers
November 4, 2018
"The Hinterland didn’t tell nice tales.”


The Hazel Wood is the first installment of an apparent duology (you can never be too sure these days), and it follows seventeen-year-old Alice as she and her mother live life on the run from “the bad luck”. After they learn about her grandmother’s death – Althea Proserpine, the obscurely famous author of the dark Tales From The Hinterland Alice's mother seems to believe they won’t have to run anymore. But soon enough, the ill-tempered girl has an unpleasant surprise and realizes her problems might have something to do with The Hazel Wood – her grandmother’s mysterious estate – and that there’s more to Althea's twisted tales than just creepy stories.

Well, me and this book were together for quite a while. I started reading it in February, but only truly finished it in August. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound promising, but actually I mostly enjoyed The Hazel Wood. A lot of the time it took me to read it had to do with college, many reading slumps, reading many books at the same time, ocasional fear of picking it up at night when things got too creepy, and even a “blessing” curse from the God of Bizarre Misprints (halfway through the book I realized my copy was missing several chunks of the story and had a bunch of blank pages instead) which iniciated another entire saga of me trying to exchange the book on the website that I had bought it for a new copy. Let me tell you, exchanging an imported book is no fun and it takes forever. Then I thought the whole thing was just getting ridiculous at that point so I took a stand and picked up the audiobook in order to finish it at last. Looks like the “bad luck” wasn’t following just Alice around, after all.

The Hazel Wood starts slow, and drags a little while it introduces the main character and sets its atmosphere. I was aware of that before-handed, which helped me not to get really annoyed, but it did take me some patience to get past the first 100 pages. The book really picks up from the middle on, and I particularly enjoyed the second half more. It wasn’t perfect, but I feel like it really made it worth my time. I think what fascinated me the most about it though was the Tales from the Hinterland. Alice has never read her grandmother’s book, but she learns more and more about it throughout the narrative, so we get a good glimpse of these dark stories. They’re creepy, creative, and definitely not the “happily ever after” kind of tales.

"Look until the leaves turn red
Sew the worlds up with thread
If your journey’s left undone
Fear the rising of the sun.”

Concerning characters, I must warn you that Alice isn’t much of a sympathetic one. She has a bad temper, she is kind of rude to people, and doesn’t get along with others. I’d say the strength of her character is her relationship with her mother, but even that’s a rocky one. This book was in first person, so we were in this girl’s head the whole time, and I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, since her personality was sort of off-putting. You do get to understand why she is like this later on, but as you’re reading the book unaware, this makes it difficult for you to connect with the protagonist, which could hinder the experience. Also, if you’re looking for romance, you might want to look somewhere else. You're not going to find much of it here. But you know, I feel like the mystery atmosphere is compelling enough to keep you going. At least it was for me, and I’m glad I did go all the way through.

Overall, I’d say this book is worth reading, but be aware of these things so you know where to place your expectations.

As I mentioned before, The Hazel Wood will have a sequel, which intrigues me because this book was fairly self-contained and could easily work as a standalone. I have no idea what will be explored in the next installment – the first one’s arc is pretty much completed -, but I intend to read it anyways, now that I have a better grasp of the world and find it quite interesting. The bit of news that truly excite me though, is not the actual sequel, but the sequel of the sequel. Apparently, there will be a #2.5 book called Tales from the Hinterland, which I can only assume will tell first-hand… well, the actual tales from the Hinterland. Those stories were my favorite part, so you can bet I’m highly anticipating this. It’s a shame it’s only set to come out in 2020, so ridiculously far away ugh. How we readers even manage to wait so damn long for books we’re excited about is beyond me.

Oh and The Hazel Wood has been optioned for film.

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Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books399 followers
May 7, 2022
I went into this one totally expecting a set in a forest type fantasy YA novel, but this “Alice in Wonderland” retelling is actually set in present day NYC with a delightfully snarky Alice as narrator. She and her mother have been on the run their entire lives, dodging from place to place, hiding from forces Alice can really only imagine, but knows are connected to her grandmother, who became rich after she wrote a book of fairy tales.

Melissa Albert’s prose is just lovely, such beautiful writing, and the suspense in this one is delicious as Alice and her friend Finch work to figure out what’s happened when fairy tale life begins encroaching on Alice’s real life. So many twists and turns, and the world-building on this one is just phenomenal. Can’t wait to see what Melissa Albert writes next.

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
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