The Hazel Wood is engrossing and exciting. It's probably the best novel I've read all year.
I had never read an advanced reader copy (ARC) before, so I went into Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood with some trepidation. I have heard horror stories about some ARCs – a friend once told me about book so unpolished that even the dedication had typos. However, as I fell into the story, I very quickly forgot that what I was reading was an unpublished proof.
It begins with main character Alice narrating her Gossip Girl style life in Brooklyn, having previously lived “like a fugitive” moving from state to state every few months. Her world was changed after her mother disappeared leaving a fairy tale story as the only clue.
The plot of The Hazel Wood is captivating. With her grandmother’s dark fairy tales coming to life around her, Alice sets about looking for her mother. The book reads at a good pace and I can see why the cover boasts that it has to be read in one sitting – it is just that good.
A lot of the reviews for this proof have said it’s a bit dark and creepy. I had to read the last Skulduggery Pleasant on the kitchen floor (it’s the brightest room in my house) because of how scared I was, so I’m not big on creepy. Overall though, I’d say The Hazel Wood is not too bad. It’s a bit creepy at the beginning when Alice and Finch are being followed by dark fairy tales across New York. However, by the time they reach the actual Hazel Wood, Alice’s grandmother’s mansion, it becomes more of a fantasy novel as Alice’s world becomes a fairy tale and the darkness subsides.
The plot is narrated from Alice’s point of view. After our initial introduction to her, a girl with a quick temper who pushes everyone away except her mother, we see her character change and develop throughout the novel. Through her reliance on and friendship with Finch she learns to trust and care for someone other than her mother. It’s really sweet watching as the two characters interact and slowly save each other throughout the novel. Their friendship is definitely one of the best parts of this novel.
I like the writing style of this novel-to-be. It’s descriptive where it needs to be, but still practical. Alice’s voice shines through as she describes her past and the dramatic events occurring around her. She’s witty, brave and real in her narrations as she guides the reader along the plot. Her thoughts and feelings were spot on for a YA heroine with just the right mixture of bravery as a heroine and fear to set the atmosphere of the novel. The wit is an added bonus.
I really enjoyed reading this ARC. With the UK cover having just been revealed, I can really recommend this when it hits the shelves in early 2018.
Opinions are based on an advanced reader copy of The Hazel Wood. It is due to be published on February 8th 2018.