Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest
Holly Black
Release: January 13, 2015
Links: Goodreads Amazon
Summary: 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?
Review: In her acknowledgements, Holly Black said that she started out writing a fairy tale and it turned in to something else. That's exactly how I felt reading it. At first I was swept up in the magical world building. Fairfold is a modern town where the humans and Fae, who they call the Folk, have learned to coexist (more or less.) The townspeople leave saucers of milk out on their porches for goblins. Certain magical happenings are accepted parts of their daily lives. And the monsters in the woods only eat tourists.

At times I even felt like I was reading a children's book. There are lots of flashbacks to Hazel and Ben as small children hunting monsters and tromping through the forest. There's enough kissing and cursing to remind me that it's not a children's book, but it added to that magical fairy tale feeling.

Hazel gave up her childhood dreams of being a knight who the slays monsters in the forest, only to have a monster show up in her high school. When it starts attacking her friends, Hazel becomes Buffy the Fae Slayer. And I totally mean that in a good way.

The plot took several twists that I really wasn't expecting as eleven year old Hazel's deal with the Alderking comes back to bite her sixteen year old self. Her scenes in the fairy court reminded me a little of October Daye dealing with the Queen of the Mists where she knows enough about the world to get herself in trouble, but she's not really a part of it.

I even liked the love triangle, which is something I don't say very often. It's a nice twist that Hazel and her brother are both in love with the prince. And they don't think there's anything unusual about it - he's a larger than life figure, how could anyone not love him. Though maybe it's a love square since Hazel also crushes on her brother's best friend. I'm not often a fan of YA romances with all their teen angst, but I thought this one was really well done.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Darkest Part of the Forest. I loved the way it blended the modern and the magical. It's also a nice change of pace from what I usually read. I've unofficially resolved to read more YA this year because I know there's some good stuff out there. I'm so glad I found some of it!

Recommended for fans of: fairy tale reimaginings, girls who can be their own knights in shining armor

4 1/2  stars

This is book 5 of 36 toward my 2015 Library Challenge goal.

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