The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I hadn’t heard of this book before Penguin invited me, on a balmy summer evening in London, to attend a cocktail party with its author. They were giving out free copies of the book when I arrived, and I took it home and read it that night.

It was good. 

Alice and her mother have spent their lives on the run. From what, Alice has never quite been sure, but she knows that every so often her mother gets spooked by something or someone and they take off again for pastures new.

It hasn’t exactly been the most straightforward of childhoods, but Alice has done OK. Until the day everything comes crashing down around her all at once.

First of all her grandmother dies. This isn’t a huge blow because Alice doesn’t even remember meeting her, but she’d always held out hope that she’d meet the old lady, ideally in the forbidden Hazel Wood. Her family history is labyrinthine and confusing, her mother refusing to shed much light on any of it, but one thing she does know: her mother has told her to stay away from the Hazel Wood.

But then her mother is abducted, and the clues left behind for Alice to follow are about as confusing as the tiny mists of information that have wafted through her life about her past. Still, with the help of a newfound friend, Alice sets off to find the Hazel Wood and retrieve her mother… and maybe work out who she is while she’s at it.

The Hazel Wood is a fantasy novel, a dark venture into the land of fairytales, and Alice is a compelling and relatable main character. Definitely recommended if you want a quick read that’ll grip you from the first page to the last.


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