The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Rate: 4.5/5

Medium: Kindle

Overview (No Spoilers):

As someone who has lived with their nose in a book for much of their life, it should be no surprise that fairytales were some of the first tales that completely captured my imagination, and have never truly let go.  I find myself intrigued by most adaptions on these timeless stories, only to have them lapse into predictable plots and narratives.  While The Hazel Wood taps into society’s fascination with fairytales and how we really never grow out of them, Albert creates a wholly unique, and incredibly dark set of stories that breaks the aforementioned mold.  To achieve this effect while simultaneously adding layers and depth to her literary realm, Albert has created in The Hazel Wood a collection of distinct fairytales, foreign to the reader yet have intrigued one and all in the context of the story.   The beginning of  The Hazel Wood follows Alice and her mother Ella as they are living a nomadic lifestyle, plagued by bad luck and the shadow of a famous Grandmother.  Much of the beginning of this story, while shrouded in mystery, starts out relatively normal and bit boring, i.e., awkward, ill-tempered girl doesn’t quite fit into her school, has a strained relationship with her step sister and of course dislikes her stepfather.  Needless to say, the plot shifts from this narrative very quickly, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat for the remainder of the book. In fact I was so immersed in this delightfully dark literary world that I was surprised to find that I was already 82% of the way through Alice’s journey.  This pleasant discovery was intermingled with concern that Albert could resolve everything in the limited time left in the novel.  With that being said, she did manage to wrap everything up quickly and concisely, with only minimal feelings of being rushed. Overall,  The Hazel Wood  was a highly enjoyable, fast paced read that offers an innovative take on the popular subject of fairytales.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • I loved that Alice was actually one of the characters in the Story.  How did her story actually end? How did the younger brother break free from the story to enter Earth? Did he actually go to jail when he abducted young Alice? What paperwork would have he had to get out or explain himself?
  • So the Hinderland was no longer the same by end of the book. What happened to the characters we met like the Briar King or Twice-Killed Katherine? Who was the Hinterland guy Twice-Killed Katherine was with? Most of the book felt like it was building up for a confrontation between these characters and Alice, however they seemed to fade into their own stories and not make a final appearance. They were so focused on Alice making a door, however nothing really came of that either. I really loved getting a glimpse of the Hinterland! I want more!
  • Where did Finch go and what worlds did he explore? Since Alice came out two years later, how were no questions raised about his disappearance that should have been linked to her.
  • I want to read Althea’s book so bad!
  • I really thought Alice’s and Ella’s tattoo would have bigger significance in the end.
  • What would have happened to Alice in the Halfway Wood if she had not had the comb, feather, or bone?
  • I liked the perceived shout out the The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman with the comment about Althea going mad in a yellow room.
  • Was Martin really dead? Did Ness make it all the way to Hinterland or did she only make it to the Halfway Wood?
  • During Finch’s and Ella’s memory road game, I had to laugh when they mention crickets as being terrifying. They really are!

Vocabulary Builder:

When reading it is common that I encounter words that I’m not privy to the exact definition, however it is easy to infer the meaning of the aforementioned word based on the context of the sentence and story. As such, relatively new to the Critiquing Chemist, you’ll find an additional section that includes vocabulary words that I encountered upon reading the book being reviewed that either had to look up the definition or a word I do not currently utilize on a regular basis in my everyday repertoire. This endeavor is easier when in the Kindle format, and potentially impossible with audiobooks, however I’m going to attempt to continue this section for future book reviews. I’ll be using the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Pendulous suspended so as to swing freely

Stasis: a slowing or stoppage of the normal flow of a bodily fluid or semifluid

Genuflect to be humbly obedient or respectful

Ostensibly to all outward appearances

Soporific: causing or tending to cause sleep

Aviatrix: a woman who is an aviator

Mealy: covered with meal or with fine granules

Bodega: a usually small grocery store in an urban area

Detritus: a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away

Enervating: lacking physical, mental, or moral vigor

Klezmer: a Jewish instrumentalist especially of traditional eastern European music

Ennui a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction

Zaftig: having a full rounded figure



  1. I’m very excited to be able to read this — I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’m with you and grew up with a book in my hands, and fairy tales were a staple for me. I can’t wait to read Albert’s original fairy tales! I love your vocabulary section, by the way! Zaftig is a new word for me. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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