Monday, 5 February 2018

The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Penguin
February 2018

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, 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. Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from 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.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began . . .

The debut novel by Melissa Albert has been quoted by some as being like a modern day Alice in Wonderland and having read it, I can see why some reviewers have made that comparison.  Our central character is Alice, a teenager who has spent her whole life moving from one bed to another with her mother across America.  She has a famous grandmother, Althea Proserpine, who wrote one  fairy-tale novel that blew the minds of those who read it, then disappeared from the face of the earth. She has never known a steady homelife, until now with her mother's husband and her step-sister.  One day coming home from school Alice discovers that her mother has been kidnapped and her step father literally forces her out of his house at gun-point; she knows that she has no one else to turn to other than Ellery Finch, a boy at her school who is kind-of obsessed by her grandmother's book Tales from the Hinterland.  He knows the short stories inside out and is the only one who can unravel the clues to help rescue Alice's mother from the Hazel Wood, the estate where her grandmother lived and died.

The book takes us on a journey with Alice and Finch where no one is really whom they seem and no one can be trusted.  Think  dark fairy tale here (like Alice Carter) and you will have some idea of what sort of world is being conjured up.  This is Melissa Albert going back to the dark fairy tale days of the Grimm brothers, not sugar coating them like Disney does.  I wouldn't say this is necessarily a book for younger teen readers as there are some quite dark and violent moments in the story but if you like a twisted fairy tale then this will definitely keep you turning the pages long into the night.  My only gripe is that the American cover is so much prettier than the UK version!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

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