Dark fairy tales and adventure and a page-turner is what I thought awaited me with Melissa Albert’s “The Hazel Wood.” Unfortunately, I came away disappointed.
Albert’s is a unique writer with a fantastic imagination, but much of the book fell flat. It’s the story of a teenager named Alice Proserpine who flees with her mother from city to city, bad luck and danger always in their heels. Alice has never met her grandmother, Althea, but upon hearing of her death, Alice’s curiosity is reignited. Althea is the author of a famous book of dark fairy tales Alice has never been able to read in full, and the mystery surrounding her grandmother has always captivated her.
The reader follows Alice as she learns more about Althea and falls deeper into her story – almost literally.
The start of the book is slow, with Alice and classmate Ellery Finch venturing out to find Althea’s estate, The Hazel Wood. The fairy tale telling takes its good time in coming, with awkward pacing leading into it. I enjoyed some of the “Alice in Wonderland” illusions, but found myself wanting to spend more time there and for the world of Althea’s stories to be fuller.
Alice also isn’t a very likable character, and even if she doesn’t have to be, the reader should still want to root for her in the end. And I didn’t.
Alberts has so much promise as a writer, but I think there are a lot of moments in this book that miss the mark. There’s just so much more I wanted from this story, and the fairy tales within.