3 out of 5 stars. Alice Proserpine and her mother, Ella, have been running from bad luck for as long as she can remember. It follows them like a curse, dogging their heels wherever they go, chasing them from one stable (or not so stable) living situation to the next. Finally it catches up to them, and The Hazel Wood picks up just as things fall apart for our heroine.
A little bit creepy, a little bit funny, and 100% fairy tale, The Hazel Wood tells an engaging story of “what if fairy tales were real” that’s unfortunately a bit weighed down by the writing. This is a book best read by someone my age, I think–there’s a not-insignificant amount of movie, book, and music references that are casually referenced that would knock a younger reader out of the story. Mix that with some strange and perhaps over-the-top descriptions, including an obsession with how people smell, and the writing just wasn’t really for me, I think.
The story, though, is pretty good. It’s your standard “dark fairy tales made real” sort of thing, but instead of sticking with the standard fairy tales we already know, Albert creates a world all of her own. That and the generally likable protagonists garner enough mystery to keep your attention through to the end. I’d love to read the full fairy tales that Melissa Albert has created for this world, and I’m pleased to see she intends to publish them. The Hinterland is a rich world with complex rules and a flurry of stories contributing to the fabric of it, and it was easily my favorite part of this novel.
The final third of the book is a bit of an info dump, throwing as much backstory at the reader and protagonist as it can in two long conversations with key side characters. It was a bit dull to read as a result, but I’m hopeful that all that world-building will get put to good use in the sequel, since it appears there will be a second.
Overall, it’s a good read. I enjoyed the couple of days I spent with it and I’m really in love with Albert’s homemade fairy tales. I’d definitely be willing to read more in this world!
Recommended for: people who like dark, original fairy tales