Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1)

Author: Melissa Albert

Pub. Date: January 30th, 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 368

Format: Physical ARC & eGalley

*HUGE thanks to Fierce Reads, Netgalley, and Melissa Albert for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion


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.

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I’d like to preface this review by stating that no one is more surprised & bummed out by my reading experience with The Hazel Wood. I stayed clear of other reviews while reading once I caught wind of the divide in readers. This book feels like it will be a either you LOVE it or REALLY WANTED TO BUT JUST DIDN’T type of read & I fall into the latter. This has all the ingredients I look for in my Fantasy books however, the promise of “pitch dark fairy tales” was the real hook line & sinker. This is a very slow paced read & I for one am Ok with that because some of my favorite books have been and as long as the pay off is worth it I roll with it. The problem became evident when at the 60% mark I started eyeing the remaining pages wondering if there were enough left to transport me to the Hinterland & when that exactly was going to happen. It was like waiting for Lucy to find the door in the wardrobe that would take her to Narnia only she doesn’t discover it til the very end & at that point there really isn’t much time for world building. Although The Hazel Wood is labeled Fantasy, a large chunk of it is set in modern day.

We follow Alice and her mother who are always on the move trying to stay ten steps ahead of their “bad luck” & so a lot of the story is set on the road. Alice knows only that her mom doesn’t have a good relationship with her grandmother and as such has told her to stay away from her & The Hazel Wood where she lives. This all changes when Alice’s mother is kidnapped & she’s left with a last ditch warning from her mom to again stay away from The Hazel Wood. Alice of course disregards & starts searching for clues that will lead her to her mom, eventually all roads lead to the Hinterland and the passageway is The Hazelwood. Alice has never read her Grandmothers most famed written work  Tales from the Hinterland but not for lack of trying. The hunt for this rare edition leads her to her classmate Ellery Finch who is OBSESSED with her grandmother & Tales from the Hinterland. Typically, Alice steers clear of all fans but she’s feeling really desperate & Ellery has read the book which gives them an advantage. Now, the way this relationship progresses was probably one of the main reasons I came to the conclusion that I really dislike Alice as a character. Yes, it’s clear that Ellery has a hidden agenda but we don’t know if he has ill intentions towards Alice or is just a super fan who will do anything to get into The Hazel Wood. The dialogue between these two is always abusive from Alice’s side. One specific instance is when they’re on the road & Finch makes up a game in order to break the ice & get to know each other better, maybe even help Alice remember important childhood memories that can help them. The game is called Memory Place and Ellery starts of with A is fo Amsterdam because that’s the place he lost his “V-card” & they continue through the alphabet only Alice gets exasperated & says she no longer wants to play…

“I don’t want to play your stupid game anymore”

“and who uses a car game as an excuse to brag about having sex with some bitch in a park”

“some bitch? she was my girlfriend for eight months. It’s so ugly when girls call each other that word”

“Oh, my God, Finch, go get a liberal arts degree”

Awkward…but this is very much who Alice is and although we get a better understanding for her character at the very end, it didn’t change the cringe worthy moments throughout the book where she was just downright unlike-able.

To be honest, I probably would’ve fared better in the tolerance department had the majority of this story been set in the Hinterland. I really did not enjoy Quentin Colwater’s character in The Magicians but once we were in Fillory, he got plenty of passes from me. Alice may not have been my favorite MC however, I’m a sucker for A+ world building & the glimpse that I got just wasn’t enough. There were two stories within The Hazel Wood that were from Tales from the Hinterland that were absolutely engrossing! Dark & twisted, I couldn’t get enough & found myself powering through the pages. However, these were short stories at the very end and I can’t judge my enjoyment of this book on just these two amazing short stories (I thought about it but I just can’t). The ending however, leaves much promise for the sequel and I found my interest piqued. I really enjoyed the story behind Alice once it was revealed at the very end, but don’t want to discuss for fear of spoilers. I will say that in the short amount of time I spent in the Hinterland, I found it to be filled with interesting characters & the land itself had a very dark & atmospheric vibe. The kind of place I would’ve loved getting lost in the pages with. I’d still encourage those who want to read this book to do so since I know blogger buddies who LOVED it to pieces. I myself wanted to LOVE it but ultimately it didn’t work out that way. Will I read the sequel or any of the authors future works? I’m going to say yes for now, it’s clear Melissa Albert knows how to write dark Fantasy. I’m very curious to see whether the sequel let’s us full out immerse ourselves into the treacherous world of the Hinterland and enjoy her story-telling in a fantastical setting…

Hello Bookworms! Happy FriYAY! hope you’re all having a wonderful day *smiles* If you’ve read The Hazel Wood, sound off in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re currently reading this book, how’s it faring with you? & for those who haven’t, did it make the cut on your TBR? ❤


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50 thoughts on “Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert”

    1. Thank you Destiny! I agree, I tried making excuses for her being that she played more of a sister role to her mother who was all over the place. However, we never get a break from her negativity which just decreased my enjoyment. I’m a sucker for world building & character development but unfortunately I didn’t find any of that here. Or rather, I did but it was already too late since it was at the end of the book 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This hurts my heart to read your review! I really had high hopes for this book, but I’ve also seen lots of mixed reviews so you just never know. I do have a review copy so I will be reading it. I’m curious to see how I feel!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh noooo! You should have heard me gasp when I saw your rating! I’m reading this right now and liking it a lot. I’m sorry to see that it wasn’t the book for you 😦 But it happens, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Flavia! *sobs uncontrollably* I REALLY tried with this one cause I wanted to love it so bad! I took this arc to the Saks windows and gave it the full on “fave arc” treatment lol but alas….smh. I am however really happy to hear you’re enjoying your reading experience with it & can’t wait to read your amazing review 😉

      P.S. I totally got a clear image of your shocked gasp upon opening my review LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so sorry that happened, Lilly! *sobs with you* That’s what happened with me and Timekeeper too! I’ve been wanting to reduce my rating from a 3.5 to a 3. Gah. I’m about halfway through Hazel Wood…so who knows, cause half of a book can either make it or break it! 😉 Guess we’ll see!

        And hahaha I love that you could imagine that!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Which I actually gasped at 😂 I was almost certain you’d love Timekeeper but it happens 🤷🏻‍♀️ & ugh I really dislike when I feel I was too generous with my stars 😂 but I am seriously hoping you love the rest of it cause actually the latter part of the book was the best for me. If you can, DM me when you finish I’m hella curious 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Haha that’s too funny! And ooooo maybe I’ll like the 2nd half even more. If it goes the way that I think it will, I’ll probably love it hahaha. And I’ll definitely DM you! 😀 hahaha


    1. I’m seriously bummed about this Sofii! It took me a whole week to finally decide on posting my review cause I ONLY try to request books I’ve researched & have a gut feeling I’ll really enjoy. Whelp my instinct was wrong this time & the pretty cover entranced me lol. I’m still not giving up hope though, maybe the sequel will deliver. I’d love to hear your thoughts, def will keep an eye out for your review when you get around to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. ummm…I really don’t want to spoil it for you but that’s not til way later. Tbh 65% of this read as a contemporary & the rest was Fantasy. It’s just not what I was expecting I guess? & then when I did get to the Fantasy it was so good that I wanted more but it wasn’t until the last 30% …le sigh. You may still enjoy it though cause Flavia a couple of comments up lol, is actually really enjoying it 😉

      either way, I can’t wait to read your thoughts. I’m actually at the moment trying to come up with 5 books I don’t talk enough about for your Tuesday meme Lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I honestly went into the Hazel wood knowing nothing about it. And I started making assumptions based on what other people were saying about it. So I’m going to clear my mind before I go forward and hope it turns out ok! 😂 I’ve been in the mood for contemporary so maybe it will work out!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a good approach 😁 I seriously went out of my way to avoid all reviews & thoughts with this one but they still snuck in. Even so, my heart was set on loving it & I’m still bummed about how my reading of it went. I really hope it fares better with you Shanah 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼 Happy reading & I hope you have a lovely weekend! 💜

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate when a book I’m awaiting to read is a disappointment! I haven’t read this one so far but I had my eyes on this baby. Happy Friday ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually tried really hard to get into The Hazel Wood because I really liked the concept behind the whole story but unfortunately, there was something about the writing that made reading it such a chore. I get that Melissa Albert wanted to go for a whimsical flair to the story but it felt really forced. I DNF-ed it about 100 pages in because I just wasn’t in the mood for it. But after reading your review, I am intrigued by how the story goes, especially when they enter Hinterland!

    Great review, as always ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kevin! I thought about DNF’ing myself but still have a hard time doing that with Books in general. I agree, it definitely felt like a chore for a majority of my reading experience & I really tried switching up the times I read & places to see if it was me. Once I saw that I kept reading the same sentence over & over again and had to turn on text-to-speech 🤦🏻‍♀️ I knew I was in trouble. The last 35% sees you in The Hazel Wood & briefly in The Hinterland. That brief time was what I would’ve loved to experience more of 🙁I’m intrigued about there being a sequel cause this could easily have been a stand-alone considering it was mostly a contemporary 🤷🏻‍♀️ Thank you for stopping by 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, like you I wasn’t a big fan of this book – It was a shame because if it was done differently it could have been amazing because I loved Hinterland – ugh, I also didn’t like Alice like what so everrrrr :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This saddens me 😕 I’m finding more Bookworms that wanted to love it so much but didn’t. I LOVED Hinterland though & really wish that there’s more of it in the sequel 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼 Alice was def unlikeable 🤦🏻‍♀️thank you for stopping by😄💜📚💜

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard how unlikable the protagonist is and how rude she is to one of the side characters. This review just confirmed that. Thanks for including the snippet, it definitely looks like something that’d annoy me to no end. Glad to stir clear from this one. Great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! 💜& unfortunately she was a tough character to digest. We do get a reason for her dark red but it isn’t til the very end and at that point it’s really too late. I really dislike discouraging Bookworms from picking up a book they were really interested in 😕 hopefully the sequel gives readers more of the dark Fantasy we thought we were getting 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼


  7. Great review for this book Lilly, though I’m sorry it wasn’t one you enjoyed more. 🙂 The Hazel Wood was one of my highly anticipated releases for this year and yeah I was disappointed when it took so long for the story to actually arrive at The Hazel Woods and the Hinterlands. I couldn’t rate this one higher than I did simply because the dark fairytales were what attracted me to this book in the first place but it took so long to get to that part of the story.
    This is definitely one people with love or hate, I agree with you there, and I’m glad this one hasn’t put you off the sequel. I’m looking forwards to that for sure! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth! That’s ok, it had to happen some time I just wish it hadn’t been this book smh. I’m definitely checking your review next, very curious to read your thoughts 🤔 I do hope the sequel delivers more of the dark Fairy Tales since that seemed to be a lot of Bookworms fave parts 🤞🏼

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and yeah I get what you mean because even though I enjoyed this one it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it would be.
        I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the sequel, I have an idea of who/what it will be about so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more of the Hinterland that’s for sure! 😀


  8. Oh no! I’m super bummed that this was a flop for you. The cover and book description obviously caught my eye for this one, but I hadn’t had a chance to read the reviews yet. It even more disappointing that you only get a glimpse of Hinterland until the very end and can see the potential for a sequel… I guess I will wait until (if) a sequel comes out and if that is worth while I may trudge through this one lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I’m still super bummed about it & I think it may even be the pick for the February Fairyloot sooooo 😕 but I do still have some hope for the sequel & will probably pick that up to see if there’s more Hinterland & Dark fairytales. Thank you for reading & I say give it a shot if you’re still interested 🙃💜📚💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s ok lol, and it’s hard to tell with this one. You either love it or not gonna say Hate it…cause I didn’t, but let much to be desired. I had posted mine on #booksfortrade but no takers 😂 I didn’t know you were interested but I can mail it to you on Monday, text me 🙃💕

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review! I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book! I’m sorry it didn’t worked out for you! It really has a beautiful cover and an interesting premise. I’m not fan of slow paced books and it’s too bad that it was mostly set in modern world. This book is definitely not for me!
    Anyway, I hope you enjoy your next read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Raven! 💜I’m sorry to hear that, from what I’ve seen the reviews are very mixed & so I really don’t want to discourage anyone who had their heart set on reading it. However, if you’re not into slow paced books then this may not be the book for you. I really was hoping it was a instant fave though 🤷🏻‍♀️


  10. Good review. I felt the same way when the I heard about this book. I was excited to read it. I thought the whole idea of the book was a good one. Everything happened so slow for me, none of the characters interested me, and when she finally makes it into the Hinterland nothing exciting happens. The only interesting character throughout the whole book was Finch. I hope if there’s another book that she focuses on finch. The book was generally okay for me. Being that it’s her first book, I feel like people will like it more than others. The problem that this book had that I can remember was her stereotyping the Bronx as trash and dangerous. I think it’s safe to assume that she never came to the Bronx and it’s very annoying when people only go by what they see on the news

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You had me stop drinking my tea for a minute there while I pulled up the eGalley cause the Bronx thing went right over my head. Then again, I’m sure many other things did too cause I was on the struggle bus with this book for a whole week. I just read that passage when her half-Sister makes the BX reference smh as if the borough doesn’t get enough terrible rep smh 🤦🏻‍♀️ thank you for bringing it to my attention. This is a big No No for me. Finch is the ONLY likeable character in a sea of just unpleasant ones. That final 35% is the only piece I truly enjoyed & remember most of. I decided to check out the sequel on release day if only to see whether it’s the writing or not…we shall see 🤔 thank you for stopping by 💜


  11. I really liked the premise for The Hazel Wood, but….well, I was on the fence. That’s when I check out reviews. Reviews have pushed me off the fence, and I’m going to be giving this one a pass. It’s too bad, because the idea is great. I just wish that it hadn’t been so negative and had gotten to the fantasy sooner. I wonder if the author was hoping to do a sequel or series, and that this was a bit more of a setup than it should have been.


  12. I agree with some of your opinions about Hazel Wood because I didn’t like the story much either. Didn’t like the protag at all and didn’t feel the magic of the fantasy setting either. Like you, I don’t think we were given enough of it. I would be interested in reading that book of fairy tales, but would pass on the sequel, probably.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The book of dark fairy tales is my draw, I think the title they’re going with is Tales of the Hinterland. Very curious to see how I fare with it. Happy reading! 💜


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