The Darkest Part of the Forest: Review

January 14, 2015 2015, 5 star books, faeries, fantasy, Peyton 42 ★★★★★

The Darkest Part of the Forest: ReviewThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published by Little Brown on January 13, 2015
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 336 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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?

This book. I love this book. That is the review. That is all.

But, really. I was fairly sure I would love this book going in just because it was by Holly Black and it was about faeries. Holly Black will always hold a special place in my heart because Tithe was one of the first YA books I got really, really into. It was the first book I read that had girls who weren’t always (or even often) likable, gay characters, and faeries that were actually like, well, faeries. Her faerie books ruined me for all other faerie books because they were so perfect and dark and good.

The Darkest Part of the Forest did not disappoint. It was all the best parts of her writing—dark, beautiful world-building straight out of a fairytale, interesting and flawed characters, and a plot that blended the magical and the reality perfectly. It was everything I had hoped for.

The story is about Hazel and Ben, siblings who live in a strange little town where humans and faeries coexist kind of peacefully. In the forest surrounding the town there is a horned boy in a coffin who has slept there for generations, drawing tourists wanting to see some magic. When the story begins there is a lot of tension between the siblings. Both are keeping secrets from each other and are dealing with their own pains. Two things happen that set everything in motion: Hazel is faced with the repercussions of making a deal with the faerie king when she was child and somebody breaks the horned boy out of his enchanted coffin.

The world-building was spot on. If you have read any of Holly Black’s Tithe series than you know what kind of fantasy world this is. It’s a blend of the present day and the fantastical, with the land of faeries being something you only see if you know to look for it. These aren’t the faeries of a paranormal romance. These are the ancient fae, the kind that may be beautiful elf princes who speak in riddles or may be a scary-looking red cap who will kill you and dye its hat with your blood. Everything is a mixture of the dark and the lovely. The story doesn’t shy away from the fact that these creatures are not human. They don’t think or live the way that humans do because they are so fundamentally different. There’s always something a little bit scary about them, even the ones who are on the humans’ side.

Probably what I loved most about this book (besides the faeries) was Hazel, the main character. She isn’t always likable, but is always interesting in her complexity. The driving force behind her is her love for her brother and her friends, but she has her selfish moments too. She is strong and a fighter, but when it comes to things like being emotionally honest or admitting her mistakes she falters. The entire story is about Hazel figuring out who she really is, past the boys and her family and the faeries.

There is a large cast of characters that surrounds her and they are all really interesting, particularly Ben, who was blessed by a faerie with a supernatural gift for music, and their friend Jack, a changeling raised in Fairfold alongside the human he was supposed to replace. I loved learning about all the characters, but it was Hazel who really shined and who I was always anxious to learn more about.

And, of course there’s the plot. I won’t give anything away, but it is all the best things you think of in a book about faeries. Enchanted sleep magic! Riddles and bargains! Faerie revels! Sword battles! And, kissing! The story moved very quickly, but it didn’t feel rushed. I’m kind of torn, because I would have liked to see some of the romantic relationships expanded, but I also really liked that the focus stayed on Hazel’s quest to discover the true nature of herself. The romance was very cute, and I’m glad it was there, but it also wasn’t what the story was about.

All in all, this is everything I hoped for in a Holly Black faerie book (I maintain that is a genre in itself). Faerie princes, girl knights, and what it means to be human, with some adorable romance thrown in? Check! Everybody should pick this up immediately.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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42 Responses to “The Darkest Part of the Forest: Review”

  1. Katie @ Bookish Illuminations

    I have this book but just haven’t gotten to it yet. I have heard so many good things about it, and am really excited based on your own review. Of course, the first thing that drew me to the story was its unique premise–and I love that (as you pointed out) it engages with what it means to be human! Really looking forward to diving into this fantasy…
    Katie @ Bookish Illuminations recently posted…Falling in Love with….Jane Austen Cover to Cover (Selah from A Bibliophile’s Style)

  2. Irene O'Brien

    100% agree. I am in love with this book. I really liked The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but with The Darkest Part of the Forest I became a die-hard Holly Black fan.

  3. Mara

    OOO this looks life a lot of fun, I’ve never read anything by Holly Black, so hopefully this will give me a good first impression! If she does a good job world building and has awesome, but flawed characters and some romance, thats all I can really ask for!

  4. Cristina

    This book has been on my TBR pile for a while now! I’m so torn because I’ve heard such mixed reviews about it :-/ I think I’m just gonna read it and decide for myself :) Everything about this book just looks too good!
    Cristina recently posted…Book Tuesday: Princess of Thorns

  5. J. Oh

    I’ve (obviously) heard of Holly Black for a while, but I actually have rested on the periphery and avoided her books, since they’re more “dark YA” and dark is not really my thing. But I do love fantasy, and when I read the blurb for this, I was intrigued. Your review convinces me that I should definitely give this Holly Black book a try. I’m sure there’s a lot I’ll like about it!

  6. Mithila

    First, is this middle grade? I thought it was middle grade which is why I wasn’t all that intrigued at first. Second, great review! I really want to read this now because I’ve seen a few of my GR friends finishing it and absolutely loving it–and in a few BookTube videos. I’ve read Holly Black’s Curse Workers series and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, both of which I really enjoyed, so I can’t wait to pick this up.
    Thank you for convincing me!

  7. Hilary

    I’ve never read a Holly Black book but this seems like a good foray into her works. I’m also happy to see that there’s a sometimes-unlikeable main character because I’m usually drawn into a book BECAUSE of the main character being nice, smart and good-looking but I’m eager to see if the PLOT that will make me fall in love with the story
    Hilary recently posted…Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

    • Peyton

      This is definitely a good intro book. It’s quick and fun, but still has all the great world-building and characters like her other books. Hazel isn’t super unlikable, but she does have flaws and isn’t always nice. I hope you like the book! :)
      Peyton recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

    • Peyton

      Yeah, if you liked Tithe (and read it early like me), you should like this one too. I have such nostalgia for those faeries. She seriously knows how to do them right.

      Did you ever read the rest of the Tithe serious, Valiant and Ironside? Valiant’s more a companion book, but I would be curious to see what you thought of those. :)
      Peyton recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

  8. Brenda

    Lovely review. Sounds like a great mixture of dark world, faeries, and an interesting set of characters. I’ve read some of Holly Black’s works, Doll Bones and Iron Trial, but sounds like I also need to check out this one and Tithe.
    Brenda recently posted…Looking Ahead 2015

  9. Layla

    Hey Peyton, so glad to hear you liked this one. I picked this up at ALAN this year and have been looking forward to reading it; a friend of mine who generally doesn’t even like fantasy LOVED this, and along with your review, I feel confident that I’ll enjoy this. (Also, I read The Iron Trial after you reviewed it, & I’d never read anything by Holly Black before.)

    I can’t think of the last time I read a book about faeries. What do you think makes Black’s faerie books a genre in and of themselves? :) (Are there particular things I should watch out for? Other books I should go read?)
    Layla recently posted…The Darkest Part of the Forest: Review

    • Peyton

      Aw, thanks! Tell me what you think when you read it!

      Haha, I don’t know, I just have never read any books written like Holly Black. With her faerie books, though, I think it’s because she draws so much on actual faerie mythology in her worlds. When I was little I used to be really into researching all the different kinds of faeries, and her books just feel the most like that old world mythology. The cute faerie princes are only a tiny part of those courts. There’s real danger there for humans in a way I didn’t necessarily feel when I read other YA faerie books. And, she is the master at unlikable characters, which I love. TDPOTF is lighter than her Tithe series I think, but it still shows all that.
      Peyton recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

  10. Meg

    I normally steer clear of the topic of fairies. I like the concept of fairies, but I haven’t found any where I can tolerate the writing. Your thoughts make this sound like it might be tolerable though, and I’m intrigued by the boy with horns hanging out in a coffin. Thank you for the review!

    • Peyton

      I’ll be honest, I can’t even think of a book about faeries (that wasn’t high fantasy) that I really enjoyed. I loved Holly Black’s because she really draws on the old myths about the fae that are mostly scary with a few of the pretty, elf-like ones thrown in (who are also scary). You can even see some of her references on her website! It’s just obvious how much she’s into this kind of mythology and it really shows in her stories in a way I don’t see a lot. I hope you like this one if you end up picking it up! :)
      Peyton recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

  11. Carina Olsen

    YAY :D Great review Peyton. <3 So glad to hear you loved this book :) I just got my hardcover of it today. And eeek. I am so excited about it! It sounds amazing :) I cannot wait to get to know Hazel and Jack. <3 thank you for sharing about it :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #170

      • Carina Olsen

        The hardcover is all kinds of stunning. <3 But oh. I AM SO DEPRESSED. I tried reading it yesterday :( I read chapter one. And I'm not trying it again for a long long long time. Whyyy is she kissing all the boys? It bothers me so damn much :\ I hate it when characters kiss other people. Okay, fine, I might be all kinds of weird when it comes to this, hih, buut. Yeah. I want my characters to have their first kiss, their first everything, with the love interest of the book. Not everyone else. I cannot stand it :p So yeah. I can't read this book right now :\ Sad face. But one day :)
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Odditorium Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

    • Peyton

      Yes! Do it! Go read all her things! I think part of why I love her is because I have been reading (and re-reading) her books since middle school, and that kind of love sticks with you. But, there’s also just so many good things going on. She has beautiful writing and really interesting worlds and diverse characters. I’m glad you’re going to check her out. Find her and then fangirl with me after!
      Peyton recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

  12. Anne @ Lovely Literature

    Great review! I really can’t wait to get my hands on this one. I haven’t read Holly Black before, but it sounds like there’s nothing for me to worry about. Plus, dark faeries. Yes!