Rating: 3 STARS
Standalone/Series: The Hazel Wood #1
How I got this book: ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s via NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
I was lucky enough to be offered a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.
I accepted for two reasons:
1. I liked the synopsis. A dark, twisty fairytale with similarities to Alice in Wonderland sounded like something I could get behind.
2. I'd heard so much hype about this book that I wanted to see for myself whether it was all hype or if there was actually something there.
It took me a little while to finish this book. After making a start I became a little sceptical. I didn't find Alice a particularly relatable character, she's rude, a bit obnoxious (and whilst that's fine with some characters, especially a loveable villain), I had some trouble connecting with Alice to begin with. I also found the start a little confusing/slow and was tempted at one point to lay it aside.
However, I persevered and I'm glad that I did. As the story unfolds it becomes clearer why Alice is the way she is, that she literally has no idea about who she is, spending her entire life shrouded in mystery and running from something she doesn't understand.
I think perhaps the book could have been shorter as some of Alice's journey seemed a little long-winded and repetitive (i.e. multiple unconscious spells) and I wasn't a huge fan of (I want to say 'her friend' but I'm still not sure about their relationship) Ellery Finch who again, I didn't really like/connect with/understand.
What I did really like were the twists and turns that the story takes, the new information and surprises that are revealed to both Alice and the reader along the way. I enjoyed the whimsical, dark characters of the Hinterland and the idea of the Hinterland itself, with its refugees, the Spinner and the Stories. I would have loved for more of this book to take place inside the Hinterland, where we could have explored that world for much longer.
The imagery inside the Hinterland, the Halfway Wood and the Hazel Wood is really quite beautiful.
Overall, I enjoyed the main essence of the story and did find myself liking Alice more as the story progressed and her Story unfolded.
I think readers who particularly enjoy dark fairy tales (especially fans of Alice in Wonderland) would enjoy this new take on the story. I'm also interested to see what comes next from this author, I think there's a lot more left to offer.
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About Kayleigh (She/Her)
Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
About Sophie (She/Her)
Sophie loves books (obviously). She has a passion for photography and spotting wildlife, and is interested in anything made with passion and creativity.
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5 Stars - AMAZING!!
4.5 Stars - Almost perfect!
4 Stars - I really loved it
3.5 Stars - I liked it alot
3 Stars - I liked it
(I don't typically review books that I rate below 3 stars)
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