Book Review

Mad or just utterly confusing?



The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Alice has been living a shattered life, always on the road, and seemingly always on the run – although her mother Ella has always been vague about from what. Used to overstay their welcome, shifting schools and (in the best of cases) apartments almost as often as clothes, Alice is therefore somewhat surprised when Ella after a very short romance decides to settle down and marry, and Alice gains an extra sister, Audrey, that’s she’s actually starting to get some kind of relationship with. But after just a few weeks, Ella is suddenly missing, and Alice’s got a feeling that what’s always been hunting them is starting to catch up.

From that on, everything unravels quite quickly, as Ella’s disappearance is somehow connected to Alice’s mystical grandmother whom been writing creepy fairy tales, before recently passing away in her (very fairytaly) mansion located inside the Hazel Wood. Ignoring her mothers only instruction; STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD, Alice is fastly and spinningly knee-deep in this mad and mystical forest, where nothing is what it first appears to be.  

Rating: 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖

When writing this review, I realize that I’ve got remarkably few notes written down from my reading of The Hazel Wood. One reason for that is that I’ve got a very vague idea of what I’ve actually read. I tend to like books that are unpredictable in the sense that I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen in the next chapter. The Hazel Wood has however taken this to a new level; throughout this whole read, I had absolutely no idea what was going to take place in the next sentence.

Language wise, this book is an easy read. Plot wise, it’s a nightmare. But maybe that’s the thing with Alice in Wonderland, of which this is a retelling (that sometimes feels quite far-fetched). It’s what I like about this book, but at the same time it annoys me. It’s first when I give up on the track keeping of things that I start to enjoy this story. And then, I really enjoy it.

I also reflect a lot around the original Alice in Wonderland story while reading. Maybe it’s just as confusing, but over the years and due to the literary canon, we’ve all kind of accepted it. When retold in a new format, I once again have to struggle with figuring everything out. Perhaps it’s just the non-classic retellingness that throws me off? ‘Cause part of me really like what I’m reading. It’s exciting, and sometimes creepy as hell. The Hinterland, as the Hazel Wood universe is called, is both uncanny and deeply fascinating. And it’s told in a very convincing way. Even though it’s “completely bonkers” as Cheshire would’ve put it, I buy it all. Maybe not the clichés at first, but then, what is a fairy tale without them?

What really bothers me though is that everything is so very real on the Hinterside, like obviously existing even to the people outside of the craziness. Part of why I like the whole Alice-dilemma is that it’s sometimes vague what happens in her mind, and what actually happens. Removing that thin line is removing something from the heart of the story. But by all means, The Hazel Wood is it’s own book. And, as Dumbledore would’ve said:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


Dr. Bea approves

For those of you wishing for more Wonderland-related nightmares, and are up for an even creepier Alice-retelling, Alice by Christina Henry might be something for you.


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