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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

It's Giving Dark Royalty Core: A Review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


Thank you so much for joining me this fine Wednesday. I hope you all enjoyed my recommendations last week, and I hope you are all ready for a new review today. If January/February was my romance era then April/May is my fantasy era.


Please give a warm round of applause for The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert!

Book cover of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. Long time readers know the drill by now, I simply love to spoil the entirety of the books I read. You’ve been warned, now let’s get to the synopsis.


For all her life, Alice and her mom Ella have lived on the road. They never stayed in any place longer than six months thanks to their "bad luck." Something bad was bound to happen. Like someone breaking into their tiny apartment but not taking anything. Or that time their car was filled with water. Or that time a fan of Alice’s grandma kidnapped her to go to the infamous Hazel Wood where her grandmother lives.

Britney Spears looking uncomfortable.
Yep, a totally normal, not weird childhood right there.

Alice’s grandmother, Althea Proserpine, is a famous author of fairy tales. These are not your normal fairy tales though. Nay, nay. These are dark stories that are borderline horror and are all set in a cruel, supernatural world known as Hinterland. A land Althea claims to have once visited and where she got her stories from. But now, in the present day, Althea has passed away and Ella finally believes she and her daughter are free from their bad luck and crazed fans.


Except they’re not. Ella and Alice must face terrible dangers if they want to live in peace. One day, Ella is stolen away by a mysterious group of people who claim to be from Hinterland. They also go by the Hinterland so sometimes it gets a little confusing. Anyway, these people want only one thing: to get Alice to Hazel Wood. Alice has no clue how to get to Hazel Wood or where to begin for that matter. Her mother never told her much about her grandmother or where she grew up, nor was Alice allowed to read Althea’s book of fairy tales as a kid. So Alice must team up with Althea superfan, rich kid, and classmate Ellery Finch in order to get to Hazel Wood and rescue Ella.


Will they find the location of the secluded, infamous Hazel Wood? Will they be captured by the Hinterland? Is Hinterland a real place? What danger will they face? Can they save Ella and survive themselves? And can Ellery be trusted? He is an Althea superfan after all. Find out in The Hazel Wood.


Ok, let’s get into this one. Honestly, The Hazel Wood is odd. I found this book odd. I never knew what exactly to anticipate. And it’s not because the official synopsis and the actual book don’t match up, they do, but it’s not what I thought it was going to be. A lot of time is spent building up to arriving at Hazel Wood and in turn Hinterland. And honestly, there’s not much tension leading up to Alice’s arrival at these locations. Or at least I didn’t find there to be much tension. We’ll talk more about the tension in a minute, but back to my original point, I didn’t know what to anticipate. And that’s cause I felt like this book didn’t know where it was going. It took too long to get to the fantasy land, there was a long cat and mouse game where Alice was never in any real danger, rescuing Ella often felt forgotten; like I said, The Hazel Wood just kinda feels odd.


I know it sounds like I have an issue with the pacing, but it’s truly not because of that. The pacing is fine. This is a slow paced book and never once does it feel like the pacing is off. It’s very equal throughout the entire read. Sure, this book could be faster paced but it works the way it is. The issue is in the plot itself. That issue being, as I said, the book feels like it doesn’t know where it’s going.

Pug tilting head.
Literally me the entire time I was reading.

This also leads into my issue with tension. I didn’t feel any. Alice’s mom has been kidnapped and she’s running for her life from what I consider to be the fairytale mafia. Yet I wasn’t scared for her. She’s with an ally who can pay their way out of most situations. And those who were chasing her, while threatening violence, did nothing more than flood her car. The danger never felt real thus there was never much, if any, tension.


I really wanted to like this book. Truly I did. And I don’t hate it. I’ve read far worse in my time. It just felt this book never knew what it wanted to be. A dark fantasy? A coming of age? A feminist story full of feminine rage? Yes to all of them? Realistically yes to all of them, but they’re never fully thought out. A shame given The Hazel Wood has such an interesting fantasy setting, and the two fairy tales included in the story are phenomenal. I wish there were more fairy tales throughout the book cause those were my favorite part; I love them! I would have loved this book more had there been more time spent in the Hinterland too. There’s so much build up to getting there, yet it doesn’t happen for quite some time.

Sadness from Inside Out.
I wanted some good dark fantasy, I really did.

I just wanted more for this read. It has some great moments, namely the fantasy setting and dark fairy tales. And Alice is a decent main character. I know I didn’t talk about her, but let’s just say she’s full of rage and willing to fight for her loved ones; she’s just the way I like my main characters. Alas I can’t get past the issue of this book not knowing what it wants to be. The premise is great but the execution is lacking.


With that I must bid you all adieu. Thank you so much for joining me this week, and I shall see you all again next Wednesday with another new review.


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!


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