Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a 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 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.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began…
What I Thought:
I was lucky enough to pick up an early copy of The Hazel Wood at YALC 2017 and I’m so pleased I did as it looks like it’s going to be the start a really imaginative series of books.
I’m not a huge lover of fantasy, but I thought that this was a really fresh idea, and I loved the Althea Propserpine back story – which I won’t spoil for you right now – that was unfolded at just the right pace.
The book itself is written beautifully and conveys Alice’s self-sufficiency and loneliness in never being able to put down roots, constantly being followed by the worst luck. She’s spiky and unlikeable, but she’s had to build up a thick skin to keep moving on and starting again and never beng able to put down roots. I really enjoyed Alice and Ella’s relationship as it is all about each other. Even though when we originally meet them Ella has attempted to settle the family by getting married, they still have that unique bond that is just the two of them.
At the heart of the book is Althea Proserpine’s Tales from the Hinterland, a dark and mysterious volume of fairytales that elude Alice, and these are dark, twisty and written by Melissa Albert. I think in the age of Disney, we forget that fairytales like Cinderella are not the warm family stories that we remember – for instance, in the original Cinderella, the ugly sisters start cutting off parts of their feet to fit them in the slipper. The stories in The Hazel Wood align more closely with the dark origins of stories by the Brothers Grimm than with cartoon mice and pumpkin coaches!
According to Goodreads, this is just the first book in a series and, based on The Hazel Wood, I’ll definitely be reading more.
Please note: I obtained a copy of this book at YALC 2017. All opinions are, as ever, my own.