Published by Little Brown on January 13, 2015
Pages: 336 pages
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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.