Thank you, Netgalley and Double Beast Publishing, for Sara Snider’s fantastical Hazel and Holly! As a side note, I learned recently that Double Beast is actually Sara Snider’s own publishing house that she created after writing this book. I thought that was super cool! As a reviewer, it makes you feel like your words matter more, as though you are more directly communicating with the author. Rock on, Ms. Snider.
Description from the desk:
Nestled within an enchanted forest is the Grove, a community where witches and warlocks practice elemental magic, brew mystical potions, and lock their cellars against beer thieving gnomes. Life is quiet and uneventful. Well, except when Hazel’s long-lost father uses necromancy to trap her dead mother’s soul.
That simply won’t do. Necromancy is forbidden in the Grove, and for good reason too. Nobody wants filthy corpses shambling around, mussing up one’s garden. Hazel is determined to find her father and undo his treachery.
But despite Hazel’s plans of becoming a one-woman army, she can’t do everything alone. It’s not until wild sister Holly convinces her to leave the house for once and go to a party that Hazel finds a pair of unlikely allies in two bickering warlock brothers.
Together, the four of them go on a journey that takes them out of the Grove and into a world where necromancy reigns and the dead won’t respectfully stay in the grave. Hazel will do whatever it takes to stop her father and save her mother’s soul. Even if it means turning to necromancy. Even if it means losing her friends. Because they would never help a necromancer. Would they?
Here is a YA SSF that follows some tropes and breaks others. Sisters Hazel and Holly are unique characters with their own arcs, but occasionally fall into roles that we have seen before. Their epic journey is reminiscent of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, with a bit more family drama. The magical system is the most interesting part of the book by far, and definitely most unique. The characters, however, fall into some dangerous tropes that are not necessarily healthy for younger readers, and the book can be tedious at times, with naming conventions that can be confusing. The first part of the book, where the world is laid out and the characters initially introduced, felt much stronger than the rest of the book.
I would not discourage young readers from reading this; however, I would ask the parents to read it with their kids, and judge based on their own experiences. Holly and Hazel are interesting characters and their sisterly bond is incredible, but sometimes seem to have an unhealthy attachment to Hawthorne and Hemlock that I would want to talk to my (potential, long off future) daughters about. The names are hard to keep track of sometimes, so that may present an issue. Also, Hazel and Holly are in their 20s, and the story does not present that fact well. I would recommend a parent making a decision about what age their kids should read this after reading it themselves.
Three out of five waves!