Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
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 centre 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 only discovered Holly Black properly at the end of 2014 when I read My True Love Gave To Me, I adored the short story she contributed and realised on various occasions I had added her books to my TBR list. I then read White Cat and realised she was an amazing author, but still didn’t invest in more of her books… then I treated myself The Darkest Part of the Forest and it was love. It’s like that with some authors, a slow descent into loving them
What’s So Special About It Then?
The thing with Holly Black is she has this really unusual way of writing, I can’t even describe what’s different about it, but it feels different in some way. Maybe that is what’s different, it has a unique feel to it. I can’t put into words what it is, specifically, I just know she has a special way of forming words into sentences that appeal to me on a very specific level.
I think that I liked The Darkest Part of the Forest because it was fantasy and it wasn’t all about some romance (I love romance, but YA does often fall into the trap of requiring a romance and that’s not always what I want). There is romance in the book, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about a girl who is hiding from a mistake she made and trying to hide from her past whilst appearing okay. It’s about a small town which is being overwhelmed by fairies and monsters and a town in denial. This book is just an ocean of denial, really. And it was great, but sometimes you just wanted to go ‘WTF, people? Are you being serious right now?’ whilst shaking them repeatedly.
Can we take a moment to celebrate a book which owns up to the disappearing parent syndrome which haunts YA fiction and explains it effectively! I was thrilled about this. I won’t spoil how it is explained, but I got so excited when the explanation began to appear and I wanted to point it out to everyone, excitedly. A book which owns up to the issue and goes on to explain that is a very specific part of the story as a whole and makes sense. I don’t mind when these things happen if it is actually explained and people don’t just conveniently disappear until they’re required to fill a role in the plot. Ugh, sometimes authors get it right and it makes me happy.
Then There Are Characters Done Right
I loved Hazel because she was real in many ways. We’ve all made stupid decisions when we were younger, but she had to have hers weighing on her shoulders constantly and rather than breaking under the pressure, constantly looking over her shoulder, she decided to enjoy everything. To kiss every boy, go to every party, and do the things which sprang to mind. How many other people can claim to having that mind set? And there was no shaming her for how she acted, sure there were characters who judged her for the boys she kissed, but those close to her never did. It was nice to see a girl not being slut-shamed.
Also, can we talk about her brother, Ben, whilst we’re at it. How awesome was it that he was gay but he was out and it was all already accepted. A far bigger deal was made out of other facets of his personality. That is doing it right. Having diverse characters, but not shoving it in people’s faces that your doing it. Having big books where these things are acknowledged and explored is important, and I enjoy those books, but it’s also important to have books where it’s just a known fact and it doesn’t need to be made a big deal out of it, because people need to see that it’s completely normal and you shouldn’t act differently. I know I don’t need to point that out, but I loved that. It was a known fact and didn’t need to be dissected and analysed.
Overall, What Are My Thoughts?
Basically, I loved this book. I had reservations going in because I hadn’t read a single review and didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away by what I got. Sometimes, it is refreshing to go into a book with no preconceptions and to be able to just enjoy it. I liked the characters and I adored the writing, and the story was really intriguing. So many different things were hinted out without being fully revealed that I was continually enchanted. My only complaint would be the ending. I liked the ending, but at the same time it didn’t sit well with me. Maybe it’s that I was left wanting more, and ending which is too open can leave me unsatisfied. This one was not open ended, but I definitely felt like there was more story to tell. A minor complaint like that can never be enough to put someone off. Overall, it’s a fantastic read and any fantasy fan should give it a read.
Have you read this or any other of Holly Black's books? What did you think?