Thursday, February 22, 2018

SPOILER REVIEW: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert - Jenn

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM


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 am disappointed and a bit disturbed by what I read. I am the former because the story spiraled out of control somewhere around halfway and the writing lessened in the lyricism and visual that was found in the beginning. I am the latter because I was so greatly misled to believe that this was going to be a dark, creepy fairy-tale and what I got instead was an unfulfilling tale and concerning remarks against the sole black character, the wealthy Finch that Alice ends up using for his money and his interest in her grandmother Althea Proserpine, and a woman broken by her experience finding Hazel Wood.

Before I delve into everything disappointing, let me give you what I did like:

-The writing in the first third or so of the book entranced me. Melissa Albert proved to me quickly that she is capable of writing a fairy-tale and bringing that fairy-tale alive. Her descriptions were so vividly appealing, and I could picture exactly what the unfolding scenes looked like.

-The fairytales that Althea Prosperpine wrote are mesmerizing and I wanted more of them. There are two complete fairytales in the entire book, and even those are told secondhand from what the character Finch can remember. There is also mention of other tales, but we only get a tidbit here or there and nothing whole. If this book had been nothing but Althea's fairytales, I most likely would have loved this book. They are my favorite part of it all.

Now for the drawbacks, I rant: 

1. Alice turns out to be Alice-Three-Times, stolen from her story by Althea's daughter Ella. Okay, got it, she has anger issues because of the story character she truly is. The author has explained her origin and made an homage to Alice in Wonderland. I get it, I understand it, but Alice was shitty. Which leads to #2.

2. Alice befriends Finch, who had always had a fascination in her due to her connection to Althea. He is a fan of Tales from the Hinterland, and Alice normally shies from anyone who calls themselves an Althea fan, since they tend to err toward dangerous and mad--yet she lets him in. Why? Because he is useful to her. He is rich, he has connections, he has read Tales from the Hinterland, and he is a young man who happens to have a smidgen of romantic interest in her.

3. Finch is the only POC in the entire book. This wouldn't normally be a problem, except: Alice manipulates the ever-living crud out of him; won't let him speak and shuts him down if he starts; puts his life in threatening situations; makes it clear that he is rich and thus invulnerable to any wrong that might come during a situation where she pisses off a cop and Finch makes it clear that he fears cops due to his skin color, but Alice practically scoffs at him as if it wasn't even remotely a possibility (this actually pissed me off so much); and at one point they are speaking and the author thought it okay to have Alice tell Finch, who was pointing out how dangerous and reckless and awful she was behaving, to "get a liberal arts degree." Saaaaaayyyy whaaaaat?

4. Continuation of how shit Alice is: there is a woman who had previously found Hazel Wood and spent a day or two there, her companion dies, and the whole experience aged her by a decade and broke her mentally. How does Alice act? She mocks this woman, mocks her for what happened to her, mocks her for how she is now, looks down upon her and makes rude observations about how unkempt her apartment is. Again, I repeat, I know she is a scary character from the Hinterland, but now she is just downright awful.

5. The writing that I had loved so much in the first third of the book disappeared right as the story picked up with more action and thrill. It isn't that the writing was bad at this point, but it was very different. It seems the style at the beginning could not be upheld alongside the progressing story. Shame, too, because it was wonderful.

6. I cannot believe I still have this list going, but here we are. Finch betrays Alice, revealing that he was in cahoots with the Hinterland characters in bring her to Hazel Wood. Now you are probably thinking, Huh, how is that so different from what she was doing to him? Answer: Well, he didn't treat her like crap, BUT he did turn out to have a huge weakness for going to the Hinterland, which the characters would fulfill for him, so he was a little cruddy too for being manipulative. But just like any fairytale, the wish you have is not granted in a manner you might like. He is almost murdered and barely saved from death. So at this point not only has he been mistreated, the sole POC character, but now he is almost killed off.

7. At the end, Alice is saved from having to live through her Hinterland story again and again until the end of time, and she accomplishes that by slowly changing it. Cool, cool. Interesting concept. Finch didn't die and had been working behind scenes for years trying to save her, and once she is free she is SO HAPPY TO SEE HIM, and it gave me whiplash. She had previously felt guilt for treating him the way she did, and she expected to have a lovely reunion with him, but she is genuinely saddened when he makes it clear that they could not be romantically involved. Alice thought she could get a happily ever after with the male POC she had manipulated, berated, and endangered time and again. The girl was delusional. (hide spoiler)]

Only non-spoiler negative: The marketing and publicity of this book was incredibly disappointing. The impression I was given was this was a fantasy when it came off more like an urban paranormal story. Not to mention, it was likened to Sarah J. Maas' and Leigh Bardugo's books--which is far from the truth. I would also like to note that it was from the mouths of people working at the publishing house at Yallfest that I heard this. It got me hyped just to let me down so much.

Giving this book 2 out of 5 bitchin' stars was me being kind, but I will probably lowering it to 1 star after more consideration.


Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction on February 24, 2018 at 10:54 PM said...

Yeah, this is pretty much how I felt about the book too. I understood WHY Alice was a frustrating character, but that didn't make it any more bearable for me.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Unknown on May 17, 2018 at 6:46 AM said...

I can't get over certain parts of the story to be honest. How did the brother get out? Why did him or Alice leaving not already break the story? How did Ella meeting and falling "in love" with the brother not break it either? There are just so many holes. The end seemed very rushed and like it didn't go together with the beginning.

Unknown on August 21, 2018 at 3:28 PM said...

what is up kyle

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