The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is one of those books whose cover caught my eye, prompting me to pick it up. Sometimes, you CAN judge a book by its cover. The cover promises secrets and fairy tales, and the book delivers.

Alice and her mother live a nomadic life. They never stay in one place very long, something Alice has grown used to. It seems almost like they’re on the run from something, although Alice’s mom won’t tell her anything about it.

Alice’s mother and her grandmother are estranged; her grandmother living as a recluse in Hazel Wood, her big estate. Her grandmother is the author of a book of fairy tales called the Hinterland, which Alice’s mom refuses to let Alice read. It’s an incredibly rare book, and has almost a cult following.

Alice’s grandmother passes away, and it seems as though Alice and her mom will actually be settling in and staying in New York. Alice makes friends with a boy named Ellery. It turns out he’s a Hinterland fanboy (go figure). But then, Alice’s mom is kidnapped and a note that says, “Stay away from the Hazel Wood” is found, along with a page torn from the elusive book of fairy tales.

Nothing is as it seems, especially when The Hinterland starts crossing over into Alice’s world. These are not your happily-ever-after Disney stories. They’re dark  and mysterious, full of danger and the sort of things that go bump in the night.

It was lyrically written and engaging, creepy in a satisfying way. The relationship between Alice and Ellery seemed a little one-note, but the world the author created more than made up for it. While I enjoyed the book, I was much more interested in the glimpses of the fairy tales seen throughout the book. I am especially dying to know the story of Twice Killed Katherine. If Melissa Albert ever publishes a book of Hinterland tales, I’ll be standing in line for a copy.

If you like your urban fantasy with a little bite, this one is for you.

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