Its inclusion on Jennifer Lynn Barnes‘s University of Oklahoma syllabus led me to pick up The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert‘s debut novel. As I mentioned in my review of Children of Blood and Bone, I’m not really a fantasy fan, but I greatly enjoyed The Hazel Wood.
From the publisher:
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 entirely sure what to expect from The Hazel Wood, but what I got was a little bit of everything: fantasy, time travel (kind of), suspense, family drama, coming of age…
Albert does a great job of building a fantasy world that is incredibly complex yet understandable and believable. I think one of the reasons I am not drawn to fantasy is because the worldbuilding is often (to me) too much to get my head around. That was not the case with The Hazel Wood.
I love how Albert withholds lots of little (and big) secrets along the way to build suspense. I enjoyed it and would not just recommend it for fans of the fantasy genre, but for non-fans (like me) as well.