The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
This is an excellent, captivating, mesmerizing book. The whole time I’m reading it, I’m thinking ‘What a brilliant idea, how could this not already be a book and TV series and movie and everything?!’ Well, it’s a novel now, plus an upcoming movie. And since reading it was fantastic, I’m certain watching it will be brilliant too.

The heroine of The Hazel Wood is Alice Proserpine, granddaughter of a reclusive writer whose sole published work is a dark, dangerous, cultish, rare, nearly-impossible-to-find book called “Tales From The Hinterland”. A fairy tale collection...except only the deeply creepy tales where people are miserable and most of them die. Well, the unsettling magic in these stories seems to chase Alice and her mother around the country as they are constantly on the run from an unending string of bad luck. Everything truly falls apart when they get the news that Althea--the grandmother--has died. Then Alice’s mother is kidnapped by supernatural forces.

THEN Alice finds out the fairy tales she’s never actually read, yet have haunted her entire life, are REAL. And to save her mom, she must bravely travel to her grandmother’s estate--The Hazel Wood--and enter...The Hinterland. Where the stories are all too real, extremely dangerous, and the truths are world-shattering.

This is a tough review to write because I can’t write about why I like the book so much! It would give away the best secrets. All I can say is the writer does a wonderfully creative job of intertwining the plot of the book, and the individual fairy stories. Then when things crossover, it’s really mind-blowing. I also enjoyed all the characters--especially the mains Alice and Ellery Finch (the Hinterland superfan who gets involved with Alice because he’s studied the fairy tales so much). Everyone is a bit fractured in their own way but still likable and redeemable.

Oh and Miss Albert does actually write out a few of the dark stories from “Tales From The Hinterland” for us, when they are important to the flow of the book’s plot. These are fabulous little bits of prose! Truly innovative and spine-tingling stuff. Are they based on rare, little-known tales or did she make it all up herself? I have no idea, but it’s remarkable writing either way.

Oddly enough, my one gripe on this book is it isn’t long enough! I think The Hazel Wood could easily have been at least a trilogy. While it is refreshing to read a stand-alone book and have everything feel completed at the conclusion, when something is this good--the reader is left yearning for more. And also, when such a big, imaginative story is stuffed into one book, what happens is it becomes too “thick” at parts. Meaning that there is a chapter or two where some truly amazing things happen, such as when Alice visits the fairy tale version of The Hazel Wood estate and walks through this Wonderland/Nightmarish/Tim Burton/Freaky Fantasyland and I’m thinking ‘Yo I want more of this! Wait what was that? Where did that come from? More, more!”

And the other "good but also bad thing" is that I’m so engrossed in the story, I’m reading fast, so I’m not fully soaking up all these glorious small details. Because there are so many cool things in each chapter. Ah rats, I guess I’ll just have to read it again someday. Oh and let’s be real...this will be a big hit book, and there were plenty of little hints at future action, so probably at least one sequel to come someday? I hope we can count on that.

Now to the important stuff - there is blood in this book. These are dark, scary fairy tales with bad things happening in them, and in real life. There’s language too, including several “F” bombs. No sex or adult material of that kind, surprisingly. But those first things I mentioned do make this quite a mature book. I would recommend this for college age or higher and probably best for girls since Alice is a strong female lead. But boy readers should dig it too, so long as they like fantasy writing and fractured fairy tale-type books. If you are intrigued, but unsure if you should get this book for someone else, journey into The Hazel Wood yourself first--you won’t be disappointed. (Except you will have to wait until Jan. 30, 2018 to grab a copy unless you want to borrow mine. But you better give it back, you don't want the baddies from the Hinterland on your tail...)

Happy Reading!

(I received an advanced reading copy of this book by replying to a promotional email from the publisher. I have provided an honest review.)