I finally managed to read a book other than my staple reads – thriller. Its absolutely crazy how you can get addicted to them with its fast pace and suspense and the reveal just around the corner. Trying to figure out whats going on can be addictive. So am absolutely thrilled (pun intended) to have read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a YA fantasy, which I didn’t know at the time I decided to read it. Nevertheless I am not disappointed I decided to read this. And here’s my take on it.
Coming to the plot:
Alice Proserpine (or crewe as her preferred surname) has been on the run for ever since she can remember. Along with her mother Ella, Alice has been living on the road for the last seventeen years or so. Never staying in one place, for bad luck seems to follow anywhere they stay. Alice doesn’t know why and nor does her mother give any explanation. All she knows to do is trust Ella and they have been a tight mother-daughter duo to let any bad weather slide. But one thing we do know is Ella’s mother – Alice’s grandmother was a writer. Althea Proserpine. She wrote fairytales and was a celebrated author despite having written only one book – ‘Tales From the Hinterland’. Over time she became a recluse living in her Hazel wood estate and her book too began to vanish – as if it was never written at all. Only rare copies found their way to collecter’s bookstores which too vanished mysteriously.
But one day everything changes. Her mother disappears and possibly kidnapped by something or some one not of this world. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” If that’s not a hook to make us read this book then I don’t know what is. It works both for the reader as well as Alice who will go till the Earths end to find her mother. But is she really her mother? and what is hiding inside the Hazel Wood? The only person she has to rely on is a hinterland fan and her classmate – Ellery Finch. Together they start an adventure that makes them question what’s real and reality of the stories her grandmother wrote.
Whoa. Where do I begin to start writing about this book. Mind you, its getting only 3.6 on Goodreads and yet I decided to read it as many others had raved about it and I knew there was something about it when I read the blurb. Yet it has this quality that you either hate it or love it. Thankfully am on the latter side. Love is too strong a word. I did extremely enjoy it. This is what stories are for me. A world to get lost in, and just be. The first few chapters didn’t hold my interest and I almost regretted having to read it but the moment Ella disappears, things turn out for the better. Alice is definitely a strong female character and I loved her characterisation. The story borders on fantasy and creepy as well as horrific. These are ‘fairy tales’, sure but not the ones that leads to a happy ending. They just make you awed as well as creeped out. The author narrates it so effortlessly, this world she has build and somehow makes you a part of it too. To me this is the ultimate storytelling – when you wait for your parents/elders to tell a bedtime story and you don’t question anything – it just is. The last few chapters left me a bit confused but it was a beautiful ending nevertheless.
Pros: writing, strong characterisation, world building, pace
Cons: narrative can be a bit confusing
Bibliogyan verdict: A different “happily ever after” but a satisfying one.