I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
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…
I had some trouble making my mind up about this one, and even after I mostly, sort of decided what I thought, I found I couldn’t actually put in into coherent thoughts. So this is my best attempt at trying to explain The Hazel Wood…
I started out really excited for this. It seemed just the right mix of fairytale, family drama and creepiness. And I have to say, I was hooked for the first few chapters. Very slowly, however, I started losing interest in what was happening: I just felt like we were taking an incredibly long road to get to the core of the story, and my attention waned. When we finally got to the Hinterland which, to me, sounded like the most interesting part of the story, it was over way too fast, and I felt like it didn’t have as much substance to it as I would have liked.
I also had some issues with the characters, in that most of them were actually not developed at all, acting as barely more than filler. The main character, Alice, and Ellery, the rich kid who’s obsessed with the book Alice’s grandmother wrote, are pretty much the only characters that get some sort of in-depth analysis, and even then I had issues with them. They rarely move outside their stereotypical features and their defining characteristics remained fixed throughout the book. Alice was a very difficult character to relate to, particularly due to her bad temper and complete lack of tact, but that wasn’t a major deal-breaker, as I often enjoy difficult characters. Alice, however, I just did not care for, and her change in behaviour by the end of the book felt too sudden to be called ‘development’ – and sorry, the explanation provided for this was just not good enough for me.
I feel like this book had great potential, and I myself was really excited for it. The author’s writing style is amazing, and it was really the only thing that kept me going on in reading. The few Hinterland fairytales we did get to read throughout the book were deliciously creepy and original, and I believe the whole book could have been as good as those. As it is, however, it felt like reading a mildly original Alice in Wonderland retelling, with plenty of potential for development in terms of interesting storyline and characters, but never quite blossoming. I would definitely give the author another try, even though this one just wasn’t for me.
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