The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert

342752321Alice’s mother ran for years before finally settling down in New York and only after they got word that Alice’s grandmother, Althea, had died. Alice knows that her grandmother was a famous author who wrote a single collection of stories back in the 1970s, but they’ve never met. Even talking about Althea is taboo, so when Althea’s enemies and creatures from her stories come after Alice in Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, Alice has no idea what’s going on. Worse, she has no idea how to stay alive against things called the Briar King and Twice-Killed Katherine.

Alice is muddling along as well as she can with a distracted mother, school, and a job at a coffee shop—at least until the threats start and Alice’s mother is kidnapped. Something from her grandmother’s past wants her to come to the Hazel Wood, the estate Althea bought after her book rights got sold to make a movie. The only way to get her back is to go up against things straight out of Althea’s book Tales from the Hinterland. Because she’s never read the book (and copies are extremely rare), Alice doesn’t know the rules. She’s just winging it and winging it is a good way to get killed.

The Hazel Wood kept me guessing at every turn. Alice’s quest to find her mother is far from easy in spite of the seemingly simple instructions she gets. In order to get her mother back, Alice is told that she has to go through the story. If she follows Hinterland’s rules, she should be able to get them both out alive. But nothing is as simple as it seems in the Hinterland, especially when Alice learns why the Hinterland’s creatures are after her family.

I loved this book so much. Alice is a gritty, believable protagonist. There are so many times she could’ve gotten killed in this book, but she never even thought about giving up. That said, it’s the world that Albert created for her protagonists that I adored. Just like the readers of Tales from the Hinterland, I wanted more. I wanted to hear Twice-Killed Katherine’s story and what Hansa the Traveler was up to and learn how to defeat the Briar King. I was highly entertained by the “refugees” who accidentally wandered into the Hinterland and decided to stay.

I sincerely hope that there are more books about Alice and the creatures from the Hinterland. I will read the hell out them.

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