Publishing Info: January 30, 2018 by Macmillan, Flatiron Books
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: October 16, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
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.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from THE HAZEL WOOD! For some reason from the cover and the synopsis, I was expecting this to be more lyrical and flowery as well as set more in a high fantasy-type world. I mean, re-reading the synopsis, it seems pretty clear that it’s not, so I don’t know if the synopsis changed from its initial posting back before the book was released… Who knows. But for some reason I had that thought in my head before I started the book, so it was an interesting start!
I actually really did enjoy the beginning despite my weird preconceived notions! I was in the mood for something a little lighter and this hit that desire. The beginning pulled me in and set up some interesting concepts! I liked the intrigue of Alice’s grandmother Althea and it was really interesting that Alice had become intrigued but yet had never read Tales of the Hinterland (Althea’s book). Clearly there’s a connection and an important reason why and I was certainly sucked in to find out what that reason was!!
I enjoyed the connection between Alice and Finch and I really liked their chemistry! It wasn’t a forced romance (it kind of wasn’t even a romance at all) and they were able to connect in a few different ways. I also though the relationship between Alice and her mother was also interesting! They had a great connection and it was a great draw and connection throughout the story.
THE HAZEL WOOD was delightfully creative and it was an interesting fantasy concept! The beginning felt a little bit more like magical realism and then we learn more about the world and we find out exactly how fantastical this world really is. Things kind of fell apart for me a bit once Alice gets a bit more into the fantasy part of the story. Without spoiling things, the shift further into the fantasy world kind of lost me. I think it was because we spent so much time in the present-day world with only getting clues in to the fantasy side that I just wasn’t in the mindset for a full-on switch. I was preparing more for a magical realism-type concept from what I read in the beginning and I am not good with things that are too whimsical or fantastical. It felt like there was a kind of free-for-all in the fantasy section of the book and it was a bit too much all at once. I enjoy high fantasy worlds with great world-budiling because the rules behind them fascinate me and I love seeing the inner workings of a magic system and political fantasy world. When things are introduced quickly and a character experiences so many things for the first time all at once as Alice did here, I tend to get lost in all of the new, non-sensical things. I almost wish that section had been split off into a second book and we got to focus more on that development so the reader could spend time exploring this new world and everything it had to offer, as well as how it affected Alice and her family.
THE HAZEL WOOD was interesting and kept me entertained, but I think it really lost me in the end when things felt a bit rushed and I didn’t get to enjoy the details when things got really colorful! I wanted to give more attention to the things that set this whole book into motion and I feel like I didn’t get to experience that like I wanted to because everything unfolded so quickly.
Kept Me Hooked On: Separate fantasy worlds. This wasn’t quite a portal world but it was a similar-type feel! There was a significant separation between reality and fantasy (with a little bit of overlap) and it was interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Separation. I wish the fantasy part had been saved for a second book, or on the contrary, I wish it had been introduced more gradually. It was just a bit too abrupt for me to go from mostly reality to full-on fantasy.
It’s a really fun concept and I actually liked the character chemistry and relationships! I would say after spending time away from the book, I’m still not sure I really feel drawn to read the sequel, though.