The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert review – a wonderland of terror

A teenager must rescue her kidnapped mother in a dark YA debut that mixes horror and fairy story

Part twisted fairytale, part psychological horror, Melissa Albert’s young adult debut is plum-pudding rich with allusions to Angela Carter and Lewis Carroll. Featuring an angry, acerbic protagonist full of spiky self-reliance, it is simultaneously enticing and fearsome, much like the Hazel Wood of the title: both the secluded estate of a famous, secretive author, and a place where living nightmares walk. While not a book for everyone – its dreamy-sharp, intoxicating prose is likely to leave more down-to-earth readers cold – those who fall for it will fall hard.

Seventeen-year-old Alice Crewe and her mother, Ella, are used to leaving fast when their luck runs out, moving through the US from small town to big city. In affluent New York, however, ill luck finally catches up with them. Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author ...