I received this book for free from Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on January 13th, 2015
Genres: Faeries, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Source: Book Expo America
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?
I don’t typically read a lot of paranormal books, so I had never yet experienced Holly Black – a pretty big name author in YA. The opportunity to read The Darkest Part of the Forest came about thanks to BEA, and faeries are probably the paranormal creatures I’m most likely to like, so I was really excited to try it out. The result? Well it’s a creative story and world for sure, but it lacked a kind of emotional resonance with me.
Hazel and Ben live in a town bordering a forest inhabited by faeries. Faeries are just as pesky and terrifying as all the faerie lore you’re probably familiar with, but they have a deal with the town to mostly leave them alone and prey on the tourists instead. So that’s SOMETHING I guess. One of the mysteries of the faeries is a boy, possibly a fae princeling, who has been dormant in a glass coffin for as long as anyone can remember. Hazel and Ben both become obsessed with the boy, and his mysterious awakening sets in motion a series of events that threaten the town and its inhabitants.
The best part of The Darkest Part of the Forest has to be the world building. Seriously, it was instantly obvious why Holly Black writes paranormal fantasy – she excels at it. She creates a really vivid world with tons of creatures and details that is faithful to traditional conventions but contains enough originality to really make it her own. I can totally see why people who are big paranormal fanatsy fans would list Holly Black as one of their favorite authors.
The story was a bit slow to get started, and then it was over in a flash. I guess that’s to be expected in a standalone fantasy, but still, I was kind of hoping for more. However, it fully utilized the creative world and came out with quite some twists. Most of them were a bit predictable to me though, but the execution was still entertaining. Like, the story kept me going but it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. *sigh* Middle of the road reviews are the hardest to write.
Where the book mostly loses points is that I never really got emotionally involved. There’s a lot of shallow romance that plays a role in the story, but that never resonated with me. Hazel has in fact two love interests, though one quickly becomes clearly dominant over the other. However, Hazel is also the brave warrior saving the town – given the short timespan of the story and the importance of her battles, any time she spent thinking about romance just felt awkward and unnecessary. Ben also has a love interest, but it was kind of an instalove/wish fulfillment kind of romance you’d expect in a fairy tale. To some, that’ll be cute – especially because Ben is gay, so diversity points! – but to me it was just meh. I wanted to ship it, but it was so… almost obsessive, that I just couldn’t.
I guess what I really like about this standalone story is that it turns a lot of expectations on their heads. Hazel, the girl, is the fierce and brave warrior. View Spoiler »Ben, her brother, is the one who ends up in love with the prince – and he loves him back, which is adorable. « Hide Spoiler But ultimately, the story is either too brief and/or the characters do not have enough depth to truly satisfy me. I liked the story, sure, but when it was over, I was all too ready to move on with my life.