The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
What I Liked:
My first Holly Black novel, a success! I believe I attempted to read Tithe years ago, but didn't like it at all (it was really abstract or something, and also, I don't usually like books with faeries), and didn't finish the book. I've been very meh about reading Black's books, but when I was sent this one for review, I couldn't resist. Honestly, I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would! I mean that in the best possible way.
In the forest of Fairfold, there is a coffin that contains a boy with horns and pointed ears. He has been there, unconscious in the coffin, for as long as anyone can remember. The town is in love with him, or the idea of him. Hazel and her older brother Ben are no exceptions. The children of Fairfold make the horned boy to be a prince, trapped in the coffin. But one day, he wakes. And Hazel realizes that there is something eerie about Fairfold, the Folk, her brother's best friend Jack, the horned boy...
This book is so much more than a mythical-looking boy waking up and escaping from the coffin. Hazel has been dealing with the Folk (basically, faeries) for years, but she hasn't really known. She made a bargain with the Alderking - her brother would get into a music school in Philadelphia, if Hazel gave up seven years of her life. Little does she know that she has been serving the Alderking the entire time, but has not known.
This book is written entirely in third person, but we pretty much get the story from Hazel's (third person) perspective. I don't know if I really connected with her, or would like her in real life, but I understand her. She wants to save the town, hunt down the bad creature (like hags), serve, protect, defend. She kisses a lot of boys, but she doesn't want to be serious with anyone, because she knows that she is messed up with the Folk.
But she's also in love with one of them - Jack, her brother's best friend, who happens to be one of the Folk. He's a changeling, brought to the human world by his mother, in exchange for a human boy. However, the human boy's mother got her son back, and kept Jack as well. Twisted, no? The story is so much bigger than it appears in the synopsis.
There is a creature in Fairfold that must be stopped. The waking of the horned boy was no coincidence. Hazel, Ben (her brother), Jack, and the horned boy must stop the creature. A powerful sword, a faerie ritual, a crazed king... there is so much to want to know!
So it's obvious - I really liked the story. At first, things were pretty slow, because Black was setting up the scene. The horned boy doesn't disappear in the first scene. There is a lot of switching back to scenes of the past in this book, but they are marked and very obvious, and don't last long.
I liked Hazel, honestly. My favorite character was probably Jack, and then Severin (the horned boy). Ben was okay, but as a brother, I probably wouldn't have liked him much. He seemed to be a bit pathetic at times. Hazel, on the other hand, was a warrior. Jack was a mysterious yet honest and sexy changeling. Yeah, I liked him a lot!
There is plenty of sweeping romance in this book. If you couldn't tell by now, I really ship Hazel and Jack... I won't say how things end, but it's a pretty fulfilling ending. Fulfilling. It makes sense, and I like it - in terms of the romance, mind you. There are two romance plots in this book. I won't say anything else.
This book is set in a contemporary world - like, it's definitely in modern times. But there is so much fantasy in this book, and it's billed as a fairy tale. I can see that. It definitely has the fairy tale feel to it, even if it is set in contemporary times. Black does an excellent job of constructing the world and putting in place all of the fantasy elements, in a modern world.
The writing is so beautiful! I remember thinking the same about Tithe, but the problem with Tithe (for me) was that I was confused about all the abstractness going on. This book had the same abstract quality to it, but it didn't seem as confusing. Or maybe I was just extremely young when attempting to read Tithe. The book was published in like, 2004? I read it a little after the publication... so I was probably nine or ten. There's the problem.
Anyway. I really enjoyed this book! I didn't think I would, but here I am, writing a four-star review. Excellent work, Holly Black!
What I Did Not Like:
Hmm... perhaps a little more detail at the ending, when Hazel realized where a certain something was. Not enough attention was put on how exactly she, um, retrieved said item. So I was confused as to how that worked. Also, that no one saw her getting it.
But that's really specific. Ignore me. Kind of.
Would I Recommend It:
If you like fairy-tale contemporary stories with lush fantasy and sweet romances, then I would recommend this one! I usually don't like books with faeries, but the presence of them wasn't YA-cliche or overwhelming. Their presence seemed like fairy-tale faeries. Which is awesome. Also, the writing is gorgeous in this book. Basically, this book really worked for me.
4 stars. I'm really glad I got this book, and gave it a chance! I might actually got back and try to read her Modern Faerie Tale series. Or maybe the Curse Worker series. All in good time!
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