Monday, May 7, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

After reading In Cold Blood, I wanted something completely different; something "fairy tale-ish".  Well, I got fairy tales, just not the light, fluffy tales I was looking for to brighten my reading mood.

I bought this book a few months ago after hearing the buzz about it. The cover, of course, was a big push towards picking up the book.  The cover art is great. I can pick out parts of the story looking at that cover. I am, however, still a bit puzzled as to what exactly I read, and my slight feelings of disappointment/perplextion haven't lessened in the hours since I turned the last page.

Short synopsis: Alice and her mother, Ella, have never stayed in one place for long, in all her seventeen years. Constantly on the move, it seems that bad luck follows them everywhere they go. Finally settling in New York City, Ella does the unthinkable: she gets married. Alice's grandmother, the famous, reclusive author of a book of dark fairy tales, has died, and Ella thinks they are finally free.

But they aren't. Ella is kidnapped--by creatures who populate those dark fairy tales. Those tales aren't tales at all, but in actuality, a place called the Hinterland, and the Hazel Wood is the estate where Alice's grandmother secluded herself and raised Ella. Ella's warning words of never going to the Hazel Wood are ignored by Alice, who sees it as the only chance to find her mother. Alone in the world, she takes a chance and befriends a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who has not only has read the fairy tales, but is an avid fan. As Alice and Ellery realize the Hinterland is bleeding into modern day New York City, the two worlds become more and more entangled, and the line between what is real and what is fairy tale is blurred. 

Alice is a tough character; she's rude, distrustful, and pretty angry. I would be, too, if I never had the chance to settle and have a normal life. Part of her anger stems from feeling rejected by the grandmother she never met, and now never will. The bad luck that seems to follow Alice and her mother is never ending. Ella's unwillingness to discuss her mother, the fairy tales, or the Hazel Wood have left Alice with a lot of dead ends and unanswered questions that can only be answered if she finds Hazel Wood. Is it a real place, or a fairy tale place? Are the fairy tales: dark, cruel, and, quite frankly, murderous, real? 

I was pretty interested in this tale for about 3/4 of the novel. The sense of always being watched; seeing odd ball characters, strange portents that come out of nowhere; these kept me reading. I loved the building of tension, and the wondering, along with Alice of just what the hell was going on. But once Alice arrives at the Hazel Wood, it seemed like a mishmash of absolute nonsense and wild feverish imaginings. I felt like I was wading through, looking for anything to make sense. I couldn't figure out if the Hinterland was trying to kill Alice, or welcome her. And Ellery, well, you'll just have to visit the Hinterland to see where his story goes. 

It's a good book, but I felt it was disjointed, and maybe the author wanted the reader to feel all topsy-turvy and confused. I myself am not a fan of that-especially when I leave the fun house and am still wondering just what the heck that was all about. 

Rating:  2/6 for a novel about very dark fairy tales, and what happens when you mess with them. Also a novel about a young girl who has to grow up, become stronger than she imagines she can be, and finding her place in the world.

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

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