Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert — Beautifully Horrifying with a Chilling Narrative and Mystical Storytelling

Hi guys! Today I am at the TN All Northwest Honor Choir festival, and this is my SIXTH and final year to be part of such an amazing program. I will truly miss it when I graduate–certainly it’s one of the highlights of each school year. My review today will be about The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a creepy fairy tale-filled YA debut from earlier this year. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Hazel Wood

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.

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This will not affect my review.

Before I start, let me tell you that The Hazel Wood is one of the beautifully haunting novels I’ve ever read. I read horror very occasionally—it’s not something that I read too much of. However, when I first read The Hazel Wood, I could not set the book down at all. It was so intriguing and suspenseful that I had to devour the chilling narrative and mystical storytelling. I wish I could rate this book higher—I did enjoy it very much—but the ending is what kind of “ruined” it for me. I did not feel very satisfied to be honest. It was as if the lead-up was so mesmerizing with its creepiness and its adventure but then the drop-off was disappointing.

Although I’m not a horror person, the feeling that I love regarding such stories is not being scared but being creeped out. I think that’s why I loved the two stories—“Alice Three-Times” and “The Door That Wasn’t There”—the most. I wish there was more backstory to the novel, though; I wanted more of the stories. Rather than seeing the character of Thrice-Killed Katherine, I wanted to actually know her true story and her true background. Instead, all Melissa Albert includes is just two out of the twelve stories listed and features and alludes to characters from the rest. Honestly, if Albert writes a novel with all of the Tales from the Hinterland, I would read it. Overall, the author’s writing style perfects the eerie tone that makes horror novels both creepy and beautiful. The story definitely gave me chills that I felt right down my spine.

I loved The Hazel Wood until the very end—this is where it began to unravel for me. Firstly, although the author stated that her novel was not intended as an Alice in Wonderland retelling, The Hazel Wood does draw a lot of parallels between their counterparts that share the same name. (I have nothing against this; I just wanted to point it out.) Alice Prosperine’s journey follows the typical “hero’s quest,” but when the climax arrived and Alice reached the self-knowledge she was searching for the entire time, it felt disappointing. Without getting into any spoilers, the revelation was easily predictable—I didn’t expect the realization but I really did not see it coming. I felt it was too predictable from the beginning, like the hints were too obvious and not that subtle. (They were like road signs that say “Hey! Look at me!” but you end up overlooking them.) There were details that I did not like and that I could not reconcile with the rest of the story and world-building. Some events and stories did not have a lot of importance or effect—for example, while I loved the inclusion of the “The Door That Wasn’t There” story, it had very few contributions to the actual plot. I did see how it was “important” to the understanding of some details, but for me, it was not as effective in terms of reasoning behind its addition. (I loved the story and wanted more of it, but I feel like its addition was not that necessary.) While Albert’s writing style is superb from the start, the story structure wasn’t the best.

Overall, The Hazel Wood had a lot of potential with its intriguing premise and its chilling narration, but its execution could have been cleaner. Certainly, until the very end, it was beautifully mesmerizing and horrifying. I think twisted fairy tale lovers and classic horror fans will enjoy venturing into The Hazel Wood


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” — Stephen King

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Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber – A Magical Place I Didn’t Want to Leave

Hi guys! I do not have a Quote-flection of the Week because this week has been so busy for me. I had a few auditions and I have a concert and ceremony coming up soon, so it’s been crazy! The Quote-flection will be every week or so, so some weeks I will have one and others I won’t. But I decided to have a review today! In order to introduce you to my newest top favorite book, I have to give you this quote! Here it is:

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. … But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”


About the Book:27883214

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.


A 5 Star

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway. This will not affect my thoughts.

Overall Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read Caraval for quite a while, and I was so excited while I was able to win this book in a giveaway! I was convinced to finally start it last week (as I write this) and it was the best decision ever. I mean, Caraval was a magical place I never wanted to leave! I can see why so many people are hyped about this book and want to buy every single version of it. I mean I amazed by it! This is probably one of the few books that I didn’t want to end! 

World-Building: The author creates such a magical and fantastic world! So much magic in the air makes my eyes glimmer with fascination! I want Legend to send me a ticket to Caraval! I don’t care if I win; I just want to roam around it! (I know I’m dropping so many exclamation points, but the world building is just amazing!) Garber certainly made Caraval one of the best fictional worlds and settings I have ever read. Could I please get a ticket? There’s also a gorgeous map of the setting in the book that definitey helps you, and it’s so pretty to just look at!

*I know this review is sounding so much like me fanboying, but these are literally my feelings right now. All I can type is excitement and joy. Gotta be more professional now.*

Plot: So I couldn’t put down this 400-page beauty. I finished it in two (or three) days! I mean this is almost record time! The plot sucks you in, like you’re actually in Caraval and you don’t want to get out. You encounter a lot and a lot of plot twists that make you want to keep going. I definitely found myself saying “Just one more chapter” so many times! Garber hooks you from the beginning all the way to the end. She throws at you so many unexpected twists and turns that you have to know what happens next!

Romance: I just have to cover the romance in the book. Scarlett and Julian is my favorite OTP ever! It’s such a great slow burn relationship that evolves from hate. But it’s so fun to watch Scarlett warming up to him. I won’t spoil what happens to their relationship at the story progresses, but it does go through a ton of different hurdles… I’ll just tell you that. But I love their relationship! I need some fan art and swag right now!

Concluding Thoughts: This book was perfect, and I mean perfect! I loved every single part of it 100%! And this book is the first in series? I have to read the next book. It was so good that I just don’t want to ever leave it! I think that Caraval has to be on my favorite books of all time! It’s the perfect escape and vacation from reality! I recommend it to everyone! Please read this book! You won’t regret it! I might re-read it, which is extremely rare for me!
Have you read Caraval? Did you like it? Comment below your thoughts, and let’s chat!

One of My Favorite Quotes (There’s Too Many!): “Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”


Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for Kym Brunner’s book Flip the Bird! It’s a great MG Contemporary Romance you don’t want to miss! Check it out here!

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester