The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (The Hazel Wood, #1)

The Hazel Wood is fascinating and creepy, filling slowly up with twisted words and scripted worlds as Alice runs towards answers and away from sense. Blood and death are companions here, sentinels and guides, for growing up is hard to do.

Alice's friendship with Finch felt real and grounded in a way that could have been discordant with the books slow slide into the surreal and magical, but instead served as a guidepost for a while. Having Finch know more about the stories in the book without having him just tell them to her made him feel more like a full person instead of a sidekick, since he not only had knowledge she didn't, but that knowledge wasn't merely deposited with her in order to move the story along. Once I realized he wasn't about to just recite the whole book of Althea's stories, I stopped waiting for it and was able to just let the story ride. The way the book plays with Alice's memory is really well done, it lends some of the fuzzy quality that older memories can have, while not making Alice feel like an unreliable narrator.

This book reminds me (in a good way) of "Tithe" by Holly Black. Both in terms of key revelations and in terms of the raw feel of its vision of the world. I anticipated the reveal, a little, but it still felt meaningful when it actually occurred.

I loved this book and I intend to keep up with the series. I definitely will stay away from reading any more of this series alone or at night, since it was creeping me out more and more the one evening I tried that. This is frequently gruesome, usually in a very sudden manner. It completely fits the tone of the book, building this dark and surreal feeling layered onto the normal world even before we get to the Hazel Wood itself, but it achieves some of that tone by having violence that is sudden and short, so that the terror lies in processing the aftermath, not in some drawn out description of the act itself.

CW for racism, violence.


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