The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Synopsis: 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. In it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. 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: This one was a bit of a brave step for me, being as it is that I have qualms with Holly's other books set within a Faerieland of some sort. Having recently read White Cat - slightly removed from her more faerietale style books - and having found it to be an excellent read, I decided to give this one a go. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. It was, in writing, in character, in creativity, all of the things I wanted from Tithe when I first read it. It is all of the things that Valiant almost achieved. In this most recent novel from Holly Black, she has finally imagined a perfect faerietale.

The novel begins with the human world and some human characters - all very normal, aside from the horned boy - and gradually introduces element after element of fantasy - a changeling main character, unfortunate tourist stories involving the Folk, the complex history of Ben and Hazel, their gifts and all their encounters with the Folk throughout their lives. Each element is introduced so perfectly as to make this not feel like a fantasy story, but a world as real as our own where the Folk are an unusual, but not impossible, fact of life. The writing is fantastic, but I've come to expect that from Holly's more recent offerings, and the story is at times brilliantly dark. Some of the descriptions of death and corpses - and one particular scene where Hazel uses an unusual method to free herself from a tree - this is the stuff I would have loved to read as a teenager.

The characters were all likeable - its rare a book throws out two swoon-worthy fellas, but the Horned Boy and Jack have both got a lot going for them here. Hazel feels somewhat like an amalgamation of Kaye from Tithe and the title character from Valiant, but more refined and relatable than either. Even Leonie, a minor character with a small part to play, had me wishing for her safety at one point. The magic is extremely imaginative and detailed - creatures, poems, legends, monsters, twists and turns, the works. The book has it all and it all works magnificently. I'm giving it a 4.5 for now, because I felt the climactic scenes came on rather suddenly, but after its had time to settle it may move up to the full 5.

Rating: 4/5

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