Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Release date: January 13th, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown
Length: 336
Source: ARC from BEA15
Rating: A dark faerie tale that shimmers with imagination. I LURVED IT.


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?

Fae books and Gillian can be a tricky mix. When I was a wee Gillian, I remember loving Black's Spiderwick Chronicles (and trying to draw my own versions of all of Tony DiTerlizzi's UHMAYZING illustrations, but that's another story), which deal with faerie-like beasts and trolls and whatnot. But I've not had much success with all the Fae books I've tried in the twelve year interim, so it was with some wariness that I picked up The Darkest Part of the Forest. (I've also not read any other Black books besides Spiderwick.)

Obviously, I needn't have worried.
There's a reason Holly Black's faeries are the only ones that have every truly worked for me, and that's because she's a master at them. TDPotF is rich with atmosphere, lore, and this ever-present feel of creeptastic, dangerous magic. Where you sort of want to step inside and live there, but um, actually know, because you'd totally die. (At least I would.)

I've heard a few people say they weren't gripped by this book in the beginning, but I'll admit I was. I'll also admit I cracked this book open on New Year's Eve just to take a peek, to see if it was the book I should shove in my purse as I headed out the door (to a party I REALLY did not want to go to because I'm a woodland troll and we vastly prefer our dark solitary troll caves, we do). So I only meant to sample the first couple pages and ended up reading, oh, about a hundred (making me very late to this part I really didn't want to go to. THANKS, HOLLY BLACK!).
(Like Quirrell, I'm a major drama quen)
Normally it's character that sucks me in right away, but in this case, it was writing and worldbuilding. Black weaves a spell of magic in creating Fairfold, a small New England town that is half normality and half lore. It borders a forest teeming with faeries and beasties galore, but the people of Fairfold have struck a deal with them: they are forbidden to hurt anyone who is from Fairfold. (Tourists are fair game, and often end up as bloody smears on the pavement. I visited Fairfold and all I got was this lousy bloody smear!). Oh, and there's a horned prince asleep in a glass coffin in the woods, and he has been for centuries. Oh, and it looks like the faeries of Fairfold are starting to go back on their deal.
Sooooomedayyyyy my mortal kniiiight will cooooome

Enter our noble heroines, Hazel and Ben Evans, a redhaired sister and brother team who love each other dearly and are hiding terrible secrets from one another. They've both been in love with the boy in the coffin for as long as they can remember. As children, they hunted down rogue faerie monsters, with Hazel as the brave knight who stabbed and slashed, and Ben luring them out with his music. But then SPOILERY STUFFS happen, and now they're teens. They don't hunt anymore, and though they love each other fiercely, they couldn't be more different. Hazel kisses any body she can, determined not to feel. Ben wants nothing more than to fall desperately in love. Ben's best friend is a changeling boy named Jack, and Hazel used to be in love with him when they were kids.

Aaaand then the horned boy in the coffin wakes up, and it all goes to pot. I love when things go to pot.

Hazel and Ben decide to pick their childhood ways back up--knight and bard--and find the horned Fae prince. But someone else is hunting him, and not just any somebody, but the monster that lives in the deepest part of the forest. Many magical creeptastic and twisttastic things follow. There's SO MUCH I want to gush about, but I shan't.

This book is not tremendously feelsy or extremely charactery (it's a thing), but I really connected to Hazel. So, SO incredibly much. Her secrets, sacrifices, and selfish desires, her bravery, her hideous mistakes and determination to set things right--Sir Hazel FOR THE WIN. And SORROW. i have so many SPOILERTASTIC THINGS to reveal about Sorrow. And the final showdown was perfection. Oh, and Ben's SUPER ADORABLE ROMANCE. A few twists in the plot are downright genius, and Holly Black's PROSE, you guys. I want to eat it with a spoon. God, and how much did I love the way she completely and totally played with gender roles? Won't spoil and say exactly how, but GAH. I was fist-pumping there for a while.

Though there are some pretty darn cute romances in this book, the heart of it is the relationship between Hazel and Ben. I LOVE brother/sister stories. All mah feels.

I was not expecting to like this, I'll be quite honest. But I absolutely loved it, most notably due to the sheer imagination and depth of the faerie world and it's many dark creatures, and then how they impacted the realities of living in a town like Fairfold.
Brent approves!


  1. YES to everything you wrote. I felt the same when I read an ARC of this book. I was really surprised by how much I loved this book. I really didn't know much going in. I'd never read Holly Black before so I didn't know what to expect from her writing but I loved it. The story was so unique. And I loved the characters and how many social issues were just in there like no big deal, exactly like they should be in more stories. Great review!

  2. I am so excited to read this!! I tried really hard to get this at BEA but was foiled in all my attempts. I'm glad it's finally here! I'm really curious about the gender subversive-ness and also, the horned prince.

  3. I can't wait to read this, and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! It sounds absolutely fabulous and I reallly hope I enjoy it....

  4. You wanted to eat the prose with a spoon?! That all sounds wonderfully logical. I think I need to get myself a copy of this book. I haven't read many faery stories, the reason being that they often end up disappointing me...
    But this sounds good! Like, really good! Great review (I hope I'll end up wanting to eat the prose with a pretty silver spoon as well!)

  5. I think the reason I don't like many Fae stories is because I've been spoiled by how magnificent Rowan is. I mean, ROWAN. He can turn into a hawk. A HAWK. How could anything compare?

    But I think I'll get this one. The mixing up of gender roles, especially between a brother and sister, and a lady knight? Sound familiar? Oh right, this reminds me of only one of the most iconic pieces of literature in my brain, written by the queen herself, Tamora Pierce.

  6. Ah, Fae books. Fae books and I generally don't get along (with a few exceptions, mind you), so I wasn't really planning on reading this one. But then you write this review that makes me MAJORLY curious, and now I just might have to give it a shot!

  7. I didn't have a whole lot of interest in this but after reading your review, O Magnificent Gillian, I put it on hold at the library! It sounds right up my alley, I don't know why I hesitated before. I love creeptastic, dangerous magic, and cute romances, and strange glass coffins. Fae is also hit or miss for me but I'm willing to give this a chance! Thanks for writing such a great review :)

  8. I can't wait to read this! I've heard such good things and I LOVE fae books - I'll definitely be picking this up soon. Fantastic review, Gillian! :)


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