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Feb 1, 2020

The Hazel Wood Volume 1 and 2 by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood originally published January 2019

The Night Country originally published January 2020

Thank you to Flatiron Books for offering the eGalley of The Night Country in exchange for this review.

Welcome to Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood―the fiercely stunning New York Times bestseller everyone is raving about!

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.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert was a very intriguing debut novel about Alice-Three-Times whose grandmother has written Tales from Hinterland/fairy tales which aren't necessarily fairy tales in Alice's world. Alice was living her life moving from place to place as her mother fled from unknown threats until the weirdness caught up with them and mom disappears. So Alice and her nerdy friend Finch head out in search of the Hazel Wood in the hopes to rescue mom Ella in spite of mom's famous last words to stay away from the Hazel Wood. I loved how the more creepy fairy tale nuances were ever present and how we as a reader get to experience the journey along with Alice as she discovers more secrets than she can imagine about her own origins. The word 'story' is a very important theme as they are all part of a puzzle that Finch and Alice need to unravel in order to survive the Hazel Wood. A novel so well done and mesmerizing that I couldn't wait to read the sequel, The Night Country:

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.
With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...

So now we have Alice but no Ellery Finch back in the real world, naively feeling safe from The Hazel Wood.  Alice is hanging out with other "survivors" from the Hinterland but then strange occurrences are happening to those who tried to escape to New York City, painting Alice as the chief suspect behind the mayhem. She also gets strange notes from Ellery and she realizes she misses him more than she thought she would and perhaps the two need to meet up again in the unknown but spooky Night Country to see if they can spark up a romance. But time does funny things and one doesn't know how time correlates from one world to another; and then: who is part of a story or just a witness to one? Tales are spun and more puzzles to solve and Alice's life as she knows it is in dire jeopardy if she doesn't come up with some real evidence that she isn't really the bad guy from one of the tales that were spun by the evil spinner.

I am so glad that I was able to read both of these books so close to each other because there are many threads originally sewn with the first book weaving through The Night Country and reading book one of The Hazel Wood is a definite must before reading The Night Country. I noticed a lot of references to other stories and fantasy novels that I have recently read which was a little weird but ultimately felt like, "hey -I knew about this too!" type of fandom feel. I really enjoyed both of these books and I am certainly looking forward to anything else Melissa Albert publishes as I adore her writing style.

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