In her debut novel, Melissa Albert takes everything we know about fairy tales and adds something new to the mix. For this book, readers will have to forget what the know about Disney and become more friendly with the darker tales found in Grimms. Because these fairy tales do not end with happily ever after.
Alice Crewe Proserpine and her mother, Ella, have never had a permanent home instead traveling from state to state trying to outrun the bad luck that seems to follow them. When they receive a letter stating that Ella’s mother, mysterious author and recluse Althea Proserpine, has passed away all of that changes. Only months after the two settle down, however, the bad luck catches up in the shape of fairy tale characters from her grandmother’s book, stealing Ella away. Determined, Alice begins a journey she has always been forbidden to take: to find her grandmother’s hidden estate, The Hazel Wood, for answers to her unending questions.
Albert creates a strong female lead in Alice Crewe Proserpine, sending her on a journey not only of self discovery, but to discovery who her family really is. Although there are several secondary characters thrown into the tale, Alice proves time and again that she can handle the journey on her own. The fairy tales Albert creates are also like nothing I’ve ever read. Dark and creepy, the tales told sound more like something from a nightmare than a fairy tale, which only fascinated me more. It made me want Albert to write down these tales and release them as a companion book so readers could have a deeper look.
While I enjoyed The Hazel Wood in it’s entirety, there were certain parts of the book that I enjoyed more than others. The first half of the book caught my attention and made me stick around to find out what happens. Albert managed to write realistic and relatable characters in Alice and Finch, from their relationship with adults to their language—curse words included. I enjoyed the many book and music references Albert incorporated into the story. They helped define Alice’s personality while also introducing a bunch of reading material the audience may not have had the pleasure of discovering yet.
However, what enraptured me the most was when the fairy tale portion became more prominent, which reminded me of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I loved how fairy tale and the real world meshed together and complimented each other. It felt as if there was a shift in Albert’s writing, as well. As if she finally reached her favorite part of the entire book and wanted to use the best words for it. Or maybe it’s just my love for portal fantasy that made me think this. It was here that the stakes felt highest, making the conclusion only that much more satisfying.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from a GoodReads Giveaway. The Hazel Wood is expected to be released in early 2018.