Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Alice has always lived her life on the road with her mother. They’ve spent years moving from place to place, plagued by bad luck that seems to follow them everywhere. But after Alice’s grandmother, the once-famous author of fairy tales, Althea Prosperpine, dies, Alice’s mother, Ella, decides to settle down and do something out of character: marry a wealthy man.

Alice thinks her bad luck is over, until her mother disappears, kidnapped by characters from Hinterland, the setting of her grandmother’s book. Frightened and desperate to rescue her mother, Alice joins forces with classmate Ellery Finch, a fan of her grandmother’s tales. Together, they must journey to the Hazel Wood, her late grandmother’s estate, and face dark and twisted things straight out of stories–or nightmares.

I highly enjoyed this book. It started slow–oh, so slow–but once Ella went missing and things began to happen, it was immensely enjoyable. The Hinterland fairy tales were suitably creepy and I loved the way they were teased out a bit at a time, leaving me wanting and dreading me. Alice was a good character, strong and furious, with secrets about her that even she didn’t know. I liked the relationship between her and Ellery; it felt real and natural.

There’s a lot of dreaminess in the book once it gets to a certain point, and it’s really good at mimicking the style of old fairy tales. It’s rough and raw and has a lot of sharp edges to it, but in a good way.

I listened to this book on audio. It was narrated by Rebecca Soler, who did a really good job at making the characters distinct and real. I think listening to it helped me follow what was going on at some of the more surreal parts of the book; I have a tendency to skim when things get odd and lose the thread, but listening to it helped keep me focused. Overall, it was a satisfying read.

Four out of five stars.