Review: Queen of Shadows – Sarah J. Maas

0

Throne of Glass #4

SYNOPSIS: The Queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return. – via Goodreads

Wow. So much went on in this! The ball gets rolling a little faster in this one than ever before!

Anyway. Let’s move on. I really like Aelin. Like, we get strong heroines in books, no doubt about that, and I am obviously a fan, but I have a lot of time for her. She is not super whiny or anything. She had a moment of it in Heir of Fire, but she moved on from it so quickly. She is pretty awesome – strong, smart, not scared to get her hands dirty, loyal, resourceful, the whole shebang. She is brave and strong. I think the transition from Celaena to Aelin was not jarring at all, which shows you just how gradually things were set up. Queen of Shadows also features an array of new characters. We finally get to meet Arobynn and see a bit more about how things are there. There is Lysandra, whom I really enjoy. She is quite a good character and has a terribly sad story… although this can be said of most of them. Lorcan, too, makes an appearance and could very well be quite the character if left to develop.

I missed Rowan so much. So much more than I missed any other characters so far between breaks! I just needed him to come back. Naturally, when he did, I was practically squeaking I was so excited. He and Aelin are totally matched for one another, and there is enough of them not doing anything about that in this that you get desperate eventually.

Let us not even remotely forget to address Dorian in this. Oh no, no sirree. It broke my heart to see what had become of him. He was shattered and broken and hanging in by a damn thread. I feel that there was just enough of what was going on with him in this book – too much and it would be the same, too little and it would mean nothing. Then Manon Blackbeak makes her appearance and there is a click there, way more convincing than Sorscha ever was. I am, of course, hoping something comes from this. I will totally back this! Dorian needs to get back to being Dorian! Speaking of, there is Manon, and her story slowly but surely changes as the book progresses, and it is damn interesting. Everything she thought she knew is shifting and changing. Between the super adorable Abraxos, Elide, and Asterin, she will have to question large parts of her life.

Speaking of sad things, Roland. Kaltain. Really. Roland might not have been a huge character, per se, but the way he cropped back up in this and what was happening forces you to remember/see just how freaking cruel the King of Adarlan is. Goodness. I am not saying you forget, but he was the example that really slammed it home for me. Kaltain suffered, and I felt immense amounts of pity for a character I didn’t much like to start with. Then there is Aedion and Aelin together, and I love it. Their family has hurt enough and yet they still have each other, are still loyal to each other, both forgiving the other’s sins after both having thought there could be no forgiveness between them for their actions.

Flipping hell, I just wanted to smack the crap out of Chaol all the time reading this. What a whiny twit! He never stopped, and he was so self righteous and super annoying. My goodness! This totally runs home why I am glad that he and Aelin are no longer a thing. When she got on the ship to Wendlyn, they were over. And I am totally okay with that because, well, yeah. They both changed and grew apart and that is fine.

Queen of Shadows features a ton of drama, an array of new characters, loads of tension between characters, and adventure left, right, and centre. I would have it no other way. No sir, no other way indeed. These books are the most fun, just in case my raving didn’t inform you of that xD Get out, go read! I can see I am going to hang so bad when all this is said and done.

Review: Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Maas

4

Throne of Glass #3

SYNOPSIS: She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.

Celaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak—but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth…a truth about her heritage that could change her life—and her future—forever.

Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat them, Celaena must find the strength to not only fight her inner demons but to battle the evil that is about to be unleashed. – via Goodreads

So picking up after Crown of Midnight, the story shifts with Celaena to Wendlyn, and it is here that the tone of the books change completely. Up until thus far, they have been getting better and better, and here Maas finds the meat of the story. We have moved on from setup to actually starting to get into what will come, wars that will rage, and building the champions who will be required.

Celaena wallows a little in this one, but never too much or too long to become annoying and whiny. I really, really loved Rowan, slated to train her and take her to Doranelle. He is prickly but there is a lot going on for him, and he is a character that creeps under your skin, and ultimately becomes an absolute favourite. I loved the interactions between him and Celaena, and how their relationship grows. They are perfectly suited for one another. Prince Rowan for life! I

Then there is the case of Dorian and Chaol, still back in Adarlan. Dorian I wish I could read more about. He has these crazy powers and they are just hanging around. I want to know more, and I want to know it now! The whole thing with him and Sorscha though… I didn’t like it. I don’t feel she was his equal, and I don’t mean status wise, I mean strength of character wise. I am so horrified about what happened nearing the end for him, and I am worried about what it could all mean. Chaol, though, as much as I used to back him for Celaena, as established by the end of the last book, I don’t think they fit anymore. I feel Celaena outgrew him, and that he does not accept all parts of her. I appreciate that he is trying to work with the rebels, but I really don’t like how he picks and chooses here and there. I am so in agreement with Dorian about how Chaol can’t pick and choose his love and loyalty to parts of her. When she sailed to Wendlyn, I didn’t think they would remain an item. The King of Adarlan is scheming, and there is so much that could be coming from this. The man is a freaking tyrant!

We also have loads of new characters that are introduced in this book, and slowly but surely we learn more about their stories, and start to see how they could potentially slot in. Aedion is a character that you take to rather quickly. Cousin to Aelin Galathynius, he has endured some awful things and has so much potential to become so much. Then there is Manon Blackbeak and the Ironteeth witch covens, and holy goodness, they are freaking brutal and hardcore. So dark and unforgiving, wow.

Heir of Fire is slow to start, and there are rather large gaps/periods between characters. That being said, you get just enough to tide you over between characters, and enjoy enough about what you are reading between characters that you are fine, so you aren’t slugging through chunks you would rather not be assed with. Anyway, as you can tell, I am a fan of these books. There is so much that is going on and so many characters and I just love this adventure. I can talk so much about this. I need more Rowan, I need more Celaena getting stronger, I need more Aedion and I want to meet his Bane, and I need more Dorian and his magic. I just need MORE!

Review: Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas

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Throne of Glass #2

SYNOPSIS: “A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for. – via Goodreads

Well, well, well, this series is shaping up to be far better than I had originally anticipated. Throne of Glass was decent, and enough to draw me in, and this book is a marked improvement over even that. We have moved on from that rather silly competition, and there is a lot more character growth going on here, and a look into all sorts of scheming and wheeling and dealing, that was only ever alluded to in the first book.

Chaol and Celaena totally get things rolling between them, and I do like them together. They fit nicely, and though Dorian is still sulking in the corner, he seems decent enough to be stepping back and not being some weird imposition the whole time. I think he will definitely find someone else that works for him so much, and I can’t wait to see who that is. Okay, but on the Chaol and Celeana front – I was so peeved about the let down that it was when they finally got to bedding each other. I didn’t necessarily want super raunchy or anything, but after 1.5 books, it was a bit tame and such a let down. Oh well. Also, while I do like them together, I don’t think they will last together. Chaol is too blindly loyal to the King, and oftentimes comes across as someone who has no sense of self, just a puppet. And he can be really whiny. I think that while he is good for Celaena now, she is certainly stronger than he is, so I guess we will see where they go together.

Anyway, Celeana being the King’s Champion means that she is up to all sorts of things, though she is steadfast against helping Nehemia and her rebel movement in any which way. This leads to obligatory strife, but all is good. There are plenty characters going about things in this book, but we still really focus on the main ones. Dorian, too, is going through some interesting things, and I can see how important this is going to be later on, which is all good for me, and I am totally looking forward to seeing what the King has really been up to and what his future plans are. I really wished we had gotten more time with Dorian in this, but whatever time we did get seemed to be well spent.

Crown of Midnight is a pretty damn good read. It reads quickly and sucks you in and gives you so much more of the world that Maas is successfully building. There is a plot twist at the end that isn’t really much of a plot twist, and has a second plotsie to go with it which also doesn’t shock much, but it is good to know that it is all in the open and I am keen to see where all goes from here. I am quite liking these!

Review: Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

2

Throne of Glass #1

SYNOPSIS: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined. – via Goodreads

Well, after the pain and suffering that was the Court of Thorns and Roses books, I have been super reticent about checking any more of Maas’s work out, though I have wondered about this series off and on for years. Seriously, after that flipping A Court of Mist and Fury (truly, fuck that book to the ends of the earth), I was not even remotely interested. Natasha realised that I had a major issue with Maas after that, and when she read these, she loved them, but kept it low key and didn’t even remotely recommend that I check them out. So, with no pressure, I eventually needed something to read recently and was really in the mood for some fantasy. That is how we ended up here.

Well, this is a totally different beast compared to the ACOTAR series. For one, I actually liked it. For reals. Yes, sure, the book is still plagued with the typical Maas issue of being far longer than necessary, but aside from that, I was actually interested. The book is also really easy to read, and just breezes by, even though it is a touch long. There is, of course, this little love triangle that crops up in it, and it almost feels that it didn’t strictly need to be in it.

Celaena is not a nuisance, and I quite liked her. I know that she is cocky and self sure, but this is not necessarily a bad thing – she has spine and oomph, and I like that. Then there is Chaol, and this is the horse I was backing! Yes, Dorian is beautiful and charming and all that (and I certainly want so much more of him and did love reading about him and Celaena), but Chaol is the one that I was all for. He challenges her and sees her and just… they click really well together. That being said, I would love more Dorian. The competition that we get in this to set everything up is not quite as hardcore as one would expect, and fluctuates between being written about in a lot of detail or being glossed over. The third act with all its reveals and all that is where things really start rolling, and sets up for a lot more to come.

Overall, I quite liked Throne of Glass. There is a lot of potential to be found in this series, and I am interested to see where it all goes. I totally did not expect to like these books at all, but so far, so good! Yes, a little long winded, and Maas still has a really nasty fixation on vomit, but neither of those detracts from the story. I will most certainly be reading more in this series.

 

Review: The Wicked King – Holly Black

9

The Folk of the Air #2

SYNOPSIS: You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. – via Goodreads

OMG. OMG. Like really now! So as you know, I quite liked The Cruel Prince, and I was looking forward to seeing how things were going to go after Jude played all her fancy pants tricks on Cardan and burnt her bridges with Madoc and family.

So starting up shortly after the end of all the trickery, the book gets right down to business. While I do think the logic of Jude deceiving Cardan into bearing the crown as king was a little uneven, it is how we get the story. I mean I understand the whole concept of them wanting Oak to rule, but it just seems sketchy, conning Madoc out of the regency and forcing Cardan in.

Naturally, things are a little different between Jude and Cardan now, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Like, there was finally more interaction between them – he wasn’t just some character off in the distance anymore. Cardan and Jude have a strange relationship, and it is fantastic. I love the tension built between them, and the misery and the longing and the anger. I have a lot of time for it. It is not the newest of all relationships ever written or anything, but I appreciate the way Black has built them. I am also quite taken with the concept of fairies not being able to lie, because it gives another dynamic to the games that they are playing with each other. 

The Wicked King certainly delivers the goods in terms of events and things happening, scheming, wheeling, and dealing. I do enjoy how that was all woven together, and things are certainly becoming more intense. There was so much cracking with the war brewing, so obviously I was sold. There is backstabbing and desperation, devious and calculating plans, mayhem, so yes. I liked the way the book was written, barrelling along and flowing and keeping you super hooked. There are characters you are never going to like, and others you do. Jude and Madoc also have a rather strained connection, and it is interesting to read about, with so much going on in it.

Also, the end of Chapter 15? Whoooooo *fans self*.

I wasn’t even finished with this when I pre-ordered the last book in the trilogy. January seems like it is forever and a day away! I say that these books are so worth the read!

Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

5

The Folk of the Air #1

SYNOPSIS: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. – via Goodreads

After taking forever to schlepp through another book, I wanted something that wasn’t going to make me pull out my hair in frustration and feel like work. I decided to give this a shot to see how it would work out, and boy oh boy, I had absolutely no idea it was going to spark my latest obsession. 

I really liked the opening for The Cruel Prince. Like, right off the bat we have strife and murder and the book keeps rolling from there. Holly Black gets to the story quick as can be, and I appreciate that. A story set in Faerie is always something that can either work really well for me, or backfire completely. This is certainly in the former category.

I really liked the world that Black creates, and I appreciate how complex the story is, and you don’t even realise. I only got to grips with it when trundling along in my book when all sorts of freaking crazy broke out, and I was like “whaaaaa?!” and my husband asked what was cracking because (of course) I was very vocal while reading. Dear lord, that explanation started simply enough, and then I was backtracking and breaking stuff down and then I realised that there was so much more going on, but Black has woven it in such a way that it feels straightforward and simple enough, but gives you tons to pick apart.

The relationship between Madoc and Jude is such a complex one, and I am really interested to see what comes of this one. Madoc himself is a rather layered character, and I truly hope he is not wasted. I am not too keen on either Tarynor Vivi, but I guess we will have to see where that all goes. Cardan is a character who is hateful, and yet the more you get into it, the more complex he becomes. Obviously the whole hate you thing with Jude is where it starts but won’t stay, but I do so like how it is done. 

Anyway, as you can tell, I really liked this. Here I thought I was in for a quick, easy read, and before I knew what was happening, I was hooked and enchanted. The story barrels along, the book is an easy, engaging read, and there is so much potential going on. Plus, there is the whole Jude and Cardan thing to keep your eyes peeled for, that could really turn into something.

Review: Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

7

The Infernal Devices #1

SYNOPSIS: The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them… – via Goodreads

So naturally I jumped right at the chance to the world of Shadowhunters because I freaking love that universe Clare has built. It is huge and expansive and does not need to be limited to one set of stories/characters, and I was really interested to see where she would take this. Clare takes us back to 1878 and to London this time, and starts to tell a fresh story, and I was hooked, of course.

The pacing is a little slow in the beginning, and I was wondering what this story was going to give up, but it doesn’t take too long until it actually catches, and then you are very interested to see where everything goes. An array of characters are introduced to us, once again, but the important ones we spend the most time with are Tessa, Will, and Jem, and boy, aren’t they wonderful?! I hope to read a lot more about them, and I know that we will (seeing as they are the main characters), and I am excited to see what Clare does with them.

The story is also rather interesting. The villain that presents in this has potential, too. Magnus Bane returns and I was beyond thrilled with the development. I wondered if I would be able to separate the characters names from this from their more modern counterparts in The Mortal Instrument series, and it is far easier than you would think. You read about the family names, and you know about the later branches of the family tree, but it is always fascinating to go further back, and they are their own people, you aren’t constantly thinking about what happens in the other series.

All in all, I really liked Clockwork Angel and will certainly be devouring reading the rest of them. The book starts slowly but sets alight quickly and draws you in before you rightfully know what happened. Had an absolute blast with this! I will be starting the next one immediately!

Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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Caraval #1

SYNOPSIS: Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away. – via Goodreads

WHY? There is so much hype about this book and so much love but why??? I just don’t get it. I started this with high hopes – it got a lot of good reviews. I wanted something magical like The Night Circus to carry me away, and instead I got… this. This lacklustre, utterly unmagical experience. I had my suspicions from the outset, as I wasn’t keen on the flat world building with no details, early villain with no real anything, and this obsession between sisters that really could have been more than the flat, generic relationship it ultimately was.

Caraval promises magic, promises to sweep you up into mystery and to have you amazed, and instead delivers an array of flat, unlikable, one dimensional characters and super bland dialogue. The writing is also peppered with all these ridiculous metaphors and this terribly flowery prose that does not change your life, but instead continually ejects you from a flat story. Instead of consuming you, taking you in, you get a heavy handed, predictable romance (and this guy’s muscles were described akin to Stephanie Meyer writing about Edward Cullen’s perfect marble everything), a game that had no spark in it, and this hunt for a sister that needed to be saved, and none of it draws you in, makes you feel anything.

The story is actually a really bland affair that the author tries to hide away with the writing she employs and the game that must be solved, and while the book at least reads really quickly, your eyeballs are in constant “I’m gonna roll” mode. Which is unfortunate. I liked the way the cover looked (see, judging books by their covers really can go both ways), the designer should be given credit. I just… didn’t like the content. There was so much potential – a love interest, a magician with a vendetta, a missing sister, an abusive father, a mysterious arranged marriage, a whole world, but the book ultimately delivers on nothing. A whole world could have been built here, but it’s nondescript islands in a nondescript time, so it doesn’t mean anything.

Again, let’s not forget the characters. Julian was ultimately predictable and Tella was annoying and supremely selfish. Then there is Scarlett, our main heroine. She is not strong, smart or cunning. She’s whiny and selfish and spoiled, and it grates on me that she is so controlling. Trust me, I understand how much your home environment sucked, but the situation and fear doesn’t feel real. The father feels more like an icon of fear resurrected whenever danger needs to be injected into the novel, and the reader knows they are supposed to feel tense about his appearances because they know he is abusive, but there is no real emotion attached to it. Legend himself, ever elusive, does not evoke wonder or anything eventually, he’s just some silly character that’s overhyped and doesn’t deliver.

Okay, so I guess you can see I was horrifically let down by Caraval. I felt it was a waste of time, lacked magic, had no real consequence, and has another two books following it (!!), which is crazy. There are a lot of people that loved this, but I was certainly not one of them.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

0

A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

SYNOPSIS: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. – via Goodreads

Okay, so I recently sold my soul to read The Mortal Instruments series, and I loved it. Every single second of it. I was so hooked, and had the worst kind of book hangover possible when it was done. Natasha was reading this series and was unashamedly in love with it. She said she didn’t know if there was too much sexy-time in it, but ultimately ruled in its favour and told me to check it out. So I read this, and really expected way more sexy-time than was ultimately delivered.

So A Court of Thorn and Roses takes forever and six days to get going, I won’t even pretend. It is excruciatingly slow, and just as I was about as exasperated as I was willing to deal with, things start to roll. Feyre starts growing into an actual character, not just this “survivor” she is painted, and she stops her incessant silliness of “let me stab the faeries” and actually starts to adapt to Prythian. Tamlin is a flawed character with some issues, and some of the things he does about Feyre (especially at the end) are questionable, but the two of them seem suited for one another. I must admit, I find the characters to be exceptionally flat and boring in this, the only one of interest being Lucien so far, and not by much. There is also Rhys, a character Maas goes out of her way to revile, but I can see that it is bluster, so I am sure what with this deal struck between Feyre and Rhys that we will see a completely different character than the one she has so painstakingly masked and put forward here. I thought the world building would be more expansive and in depth than it was in this, but it was enough to get one interested.

Anyway, A Court of Thorn and Roses is not necessarily the greatest fantasy book ever, and the writing is uneven and there are way too many ellipses in Maas’s writing, and after a rocky start, the story got underway. It was in no way unpredictable, but it was an easy read, albeit a little too long. I wonder what Maas will do now that she has finished with Amarantha, and where she will take the story from here?

Review: The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

0

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: 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. – via Goodreads

I was intrigued by the sound of this when I read the write up, and thought it might be worth looking into. I quite enjoy a fantasy fairytale type story that deals with the fantastical in a particular manner, especially when it reels you in. From the off the vibe I got from this book made me think of one of my closest friends.

The Hazel Wood is, in a word, magical. Right in the beginning, when it starts, you wonder what it is that you are reading and where, exactly, it is going to go, and before you know it, an adventure barrels in and sweeps you off your feet, dragging you, whether you are ready or not, off into the Hinterland.

Melissa Albert builds a really good world, too. Alice is our protagonist, and her story unfolds slowly but surely, giving you bits and bobs and plenty more mystery than you know what to do with. Her search for her lost mother is conducted with the assistance of Ellery Finch, a character I quite enjoyed, as he brought a lot to the table in terms of diversifying the story. He knew things, so many things, and he was quite involved with helping Alice in her quest, and I quite liked the dynamic between Alice and Finch.

Albert seamlessly blurs the lines between Hinterland and the real world, and it is balanced so well, too. You know what is and what isn’t, and yet the story cleverly weaves between the worlds, the Stories, the characters. Sometimes not too many answers are provided, which I think added to the vibe of the book, though it is something that might irritate other readers.

The Hazel Wood is a dark, magical, crazy, weird story that is bound to sweep you up if you are into fantasy edged with grim fairy tales. The writing flows and the story engages, making this book well worth the read. I can see it is something I will revisit.