Real rating: 4.25 stars
Since it came out sometime this year, I’ve heard LOTS of people raving about it, especially from the likes of EpicReads. I almost bought it at Barnes and Noble (should’ve done it, now that I know how good it is), but brushed it off because a) I wasn’t really hooked in that moment, and b) the hardcover was unreasonably expensive for a book. Now I simultaneously regret and delight in the fact that I got it at the library. Delight, because man, this book was a treasure; regret because now I’ll have to return it in a week’s time.
I didn’t have super high expectations, but MAN, “The Hazel Wood” blew it out of the water! Near-perfectly executed magical realism...was that magical realism? I mean, it’s been shelved as fiction and fantasy, but I’d say it was a pretty perfect blend of both. The fantasy element, towards the end of the book, was a little more prevalent, but...I guess that would be magical realism? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Either way, the author made it work almost flawlessly.
Honestly, I was hooked from start to finish. The writing was spectacular, and the world building was so enchanting, that I felt like I never wanted to leave. (That is, until I got to the Hinterlands...hehehe...) I found myself growing attached to Alice, and I loved exploring her backstory. The other characters, whether I liked them or not, were incredibly well thought up, and the chemistry between them was perfectly executed. I loved the lore that came along with “Tales from the Hinterland”, and all of the dark, creepy fairy excerpts we got throughout the course of the book. I’d like to see more of those, and apparently, “Tales from the Hinterland” is going to be published as a separate book in a few years’ time...
And finally, I REALLY enjoyed all of the little pop culture references that were thrown in there, especially the music related ones. I’ll admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the description of Lana from the coffee shop, and the subsequent interaction between her in the customer who mistook T. Rex for the Stone Roses. I cracked up at the latter.
All in all, “The Hazel Wood” is most definitely worth a read, whether you like fantasy, fiction, or both.