When I was younger (and now still a little bit), I was obsessed with dark fairy tales. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter was fascinating to me, even though it scared me. Apart from that, I was also obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. Needless to say, when I saw that The Hazel Wood was a combination of the two, I was sold. The book was featured in the Fairyloot box and I started reading it right away. But the question is, is it any good?
Taken from 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.
Dark but not exciting
Reviews about this book basically showed us two opinions. You either loved it or you hate it. The thing is, I do find myself stuck in the middle on this one. There were moments which were incredibly exciting. Those moments had me turning the pages like crazy. However, there were also quite a few boring scenes and I had to really force myself to keep on reading. I think, in the end there were a lot of parts that worked really well and a lot that did not work for me. The result is that the concept of this book is better than the actual book itself. Which is a shame, because I had such high hopes for this one.
The fact that the fairy tale world doesn’t come into play until 2/3rd of the book doesn’t help. Also, the ending feels rather rushed and misses any feeling of stakes being high. When the most exciting thing happens chapters before your ending, it is not the best thing ever.
Stories within a story
What I did love about this novel were the fairy tales which were told throughout the book. The chapters involving these were genuinely dark and made me feel uncomfortable. It shows that Albert has a great talent for writing. And it is that same darkness that seeps through in the rest of the novel, but never really works. Alice, our main character, is angry all the time, which is understandable considering her background. While she goes through an impressive growth, it is tiring to constantly be in the head of someone so angry. Even though I love the darkness, the thing that The Hazel Wood is lacking is a sliver of hope.
What is the Hinterland?
The fairy tale world in the novel is called the Hinterland. As I mentioned before, we don’t get there until the story is almost over. By this time, it is used merely as a plot device instead of a living and breathing world. We don’t get to look around at its splendour and the magic that makes it go around. Albert portrays it as an awful place filled with horrors. Fairy Tales in her world are nothing but darkness and despair. Yet even in dark fairy tales, there has to be something worth living for. There has to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Even in a dark world, we need to know that there is good in it too. That is what binds readers to these fantastical realms. This is something that I missed a lot in this novel.
+ The fairy tales within the book are great.
+ Good writing style.
+ Good concept.
– Takes too long for the fairy tales to start.
– Conflict is resolved too fast and without much tension.
– Characters are not very likeable