The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I unwrapped this book in the February FairyLoot box. I’ve always been a big lover of fairytales and folklore so I was so excited to read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.

‘Alice’s life on the road is 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.’

The premise of the book is fantastic and I was immediately taken in by Alice’s obsession with her grandmother’s book – a book she’s never been able to read but always known about. She’s met fans and it has only ever increased her curiosity. The build up to her experiences in the book was written fantastically, and Albert’s dispersal of short stories from Tales from the Hinterland were delicious little teasers. I would LOVE to read a full collection of these stories. Albert’s book is full of darkness and intrigue and she doesn’t hold back as she draws the fantasy into Alice’s reality.

The absence of Althea – the grandmother – in Alice’s life created an amazing atmosphere for the development of the plot. In some ways it felt like Althea was such a prominent character in the text because her lack of physical presence was so overwhelming. The wonder and curiosity and fanatics of Althea Proserpine were just as much a character as Alice herself or her mother, Ella.

Alice’s life on the road made the journey to The Hazel Wood believable; I often feel that when teenagers go on epic journeys they come across as so unrealistic that it makes the fantasy difficult to accept, but because Alice had grown up travelling and moving around so often, I could see her taking this journey to find her mother. I really liked the obstacles that Albert put in her way, playing with modern society and the obscurities of stories she had created, to pressure Alice’s conviction. Being set in New York in modern day meant that Alice faced modern societal issues too, and without saying too much about them, I found the way Albert included them interesting. The aspects of modern society in this fantasy adventure helped keep me grounded in the text’s changing reality, and that’s exactly what I want an urban fantasy to do.

As a lover of fairytales and fantasy, I fell easily into the curiosities this book. Albert led into the fantasy elements perfectly and the contrast between reality and fantasy in Alice’s journey were exactly what I wanted to read. And the concept itself of the fantasy was amazing. I loved the world and the exploration of nonsense in order to weave together a world we can imagine. The short stories were the perfect windows into a dark and dangerous world, one that gives you shivers, but that ultimately, you are desperate to escape into.

I really enjoyed reading this, and though I found Alice’s personality slightly disagreeable, it was another brilliant plot device that I’m sure Albert intended. This is an incredible debut novel and such an incredible story to read. The concepts of storytelling that Albert explores were wonderful and devilish, so if you love a good urban fantasy book, or writers in the vein of Angela Carter and Charles Perrault, I think you’ll love this.

If you want to see what goodies I got in the February FairyLoot Box with Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood then click here!:


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