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Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
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130 of 137 people found the following review helpful
Tithe's inner blurb states that it is a young adult fantasy tale written by a brand new author with an exciting and imaginative voice and, for a change, the raves are true! If you're into darker edged fantasy, where the faeries are more likely to wound tender flesh than sprinkle one with faery dust, where sex, violence and various debaucheries are all part of a typical day in the faery kingdom, then do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Tithe. It's the perfect book to chase away the mid-winter blahs. Big thanks to Preeti, my reader friend ... for bringing this deliciously dark book to my attention.
Kaye is a tough, resourceful, street smart sixteen year old. As the daughter of a flighty, small-time rock singer who rarely stays in one place for more than six months at a time Kaye's life has been filled with chaos. When her mother is attacked after a performance she decides to temporarily move them back into her mother's home. As a child, Kaye loved living in her grandmother's old house and believed she had faery friends.
Kaye has always been able to see things other cannot but it's not until she returns to her grandmother's home that she begins to discover exactly how different she is. In the woods Kaye meets an injured young man with pewter hair and pointy ears named Roiben who requests her help, reluctantly promises her payment and then quickly disappears. Though Kaye refuses to be anything like her worthless mother and will never pine away after a man she can't seem to get thoughts of Roiben out of her head.
Soon after the weird encounter with Roiben, Kaye discovers her imaginary world is not quite so imaginary after all. After locating two of her old faery friends she discovers that she is fated to play an important (and possibly deadly) role in helping her friends remain free from the warring faery kingdoms (the Seelie and the Unseelie) who want to enslave them. Kaye's somewhat unstable world becomes even more-so when she enters into a fantasy world filled with magic and dark beauty and the irresistible but terribly confusing dark knight named Roiben who may or may have not killed one of her friends.
Tithe is a real page-turner. I especially enjoyed its bleak, but never overwhelmingly depressing, look at life from a jaded sixteen year old point of view. Even before Kaye discovers the world of faery her world isn't that of your typical teenager. Because of her upbringing and lack of parental support she's got an edge about her that makes her refreshingly interesting. She smokes, talks tough, and holds her own against the flakey, ineffective adults and self-absorbed teens that inhabit her world. Though she's self-reliant and insightful she's still a teenager prone to emotion, moments of selfishness and wicked thoughts of revenge. Her faults, as well as her strengths, are the reason I enjoyed her character so much. Her conflicted feelings for Roiben -- is he tortured hero or cold-hearted fiend? -- are also another fascinating aspect of the story. Their emerging romance manages to be sensual, touching and anything but the same-old, same-old. If you're tired of angelic, nauseatingly good heroes and heroines don't worry because you won't find any here!
Though I enjoyed this book thoroughly I did spot a few minor problems (sorry, I can't shut off the nitpicker inside me). With the exception of Kaye, nearly all of the secondary characters aren't given enough space to become very well defined. This is one case where I think a longer book may have made for a near perfect book (and I almost never say such things). Kaye's troubled friend Corny and especially Roiben would've benefited from more space to become fully fleshed out characters. I guess we can hold out hope for a prequel all about Roiben. There is also some troublesome dialogue here and there that needed a little tweaking. At times I felt like I'd walked in on the middle of a conversation and missed a sentence or two somewhere along the way. Other times I felt like the characters must be reading each others minds because their dialogue made little sense to me. Despite this the story moves very quickly, is imaginative, entertaining and I wish it hadn't had to end quite so soon. I cannot wait to see what author Holly Black comes up with next.
With its adult language, sexuality, violence and alcohol consumption "Tithe" reads more like an adult novel featuring young protagonists and because of this I'd recommend it for the "older" young adult ... 4 ½ stars
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2002
One of the worst things about growing up under the steel clutch of the Disney fist was having to endure saccharine, sweet, cute, anemic faeries. Holly Black gives us true faeries as they were shown in myth and legend: scary, nasty, bloody-minded, inhuman (with their own agendas), sometimes cute, more often great and awe-inspiring, and by now means *safe.* Her protagonist is Kaye, who returns to her childhood home only to discover she is a pawn and intended sacrifice (the Tithe) between the Unseelie (dark faery) and Seelie (bright faery, but that doesn't mean nice!) courts. Kaye has been living on the fringes for some time now, dragged here and there by her loving but dysfunctional mother, hanging with the crowd that has nowhere to go, when she can find a crowd to hang with. It's life as it's lived in trailer parks and on boardwalks, life as seen by teen auto mechanics and young people in search of the next rave while looking for some kind of meaning to their lives. Through Kaye's encounters with faery knights, queens, and the unbound faeries who were her childhood friends, she learns of her own faery side and, most wonderfully, of her deeply human heart. Certainly this is not a book for adults who believe they can keep children safe by wrapping them in cotton wool. It is a story for those adults and teens who prefer life with grit, terror, and splendor. If you want legends with real blood in their veins, this is the book to read.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, the first book in Holly Black's faery trilogy, introduces readers to a dark and twisted world of Faerie. Sixteen-year-old Kaye is the daughter of a rocker mom who moves from town to town before an act of violence pushes them back to New Jersey. Kaye thinks the faeries of her youth are a thing of the past, but soon, her world starts changing as she learns that she has been chosen as a sacrifice between faery courts. Kaye must struggle to save herself, her friend, and a certain faery knight.

Unfortunately, this world of Faerie is not very likeable or easy to read. First and foremost, I found the book difficult to read due to the writing style and lack of editing. The writing is unclear in many places, with disjointed sentences and weak dialogue. Transitions between scenes were abrupt, and it was sometimes difficult to gain a coherent understanding of what was happening. Though some settings were described well, the characters were not. Character development was limited, and the relationships between characters seemed weak and unimportant. As described, the love connection also didn't seem believable.

Secondly, Black's world of Faerie is dark, twisted, and cruel. I don't mind darker tales; however, there needs to be a point to it. The book contains vulgarity; smoking, alcohol, and drugs; unhealthy relationships; references to violent, hurtful sex that`s enjoyed; and grisly murder and torture. I knew some of this going in, but I was surprised that none of these issues were used as a means of character development or conflict. None of the characters seemed to have any redeeming or likeable qualities. Even if a character is flawed, I want to read a book where I want to root for him/her, despite these flaws or a sordid past. In this case, I was left feeling ambivalent towards everyone.

While a good concept with potential for a great tale, my negative reaction to this book was much stronger than I expected. I hope that Black brought her fans something better in the sequels, Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie and Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale.
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251 of 321 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2008
I have read through many of the other reviews on this book and I am unsatisfied with the reasons points given in the low reviews. I agree with them that this is not a good book, but for different reasons.

Most of those reviewers sighted things like "bad language", "adult themes", etc. These elements are certainly present in the book, but the reviewers must be years out of high school if they think teens aren't inundated with them already.

The "F" word; chain smoking; trailer-park living; yaoi porn manga; alcoholic, irresponsible parents; abusive boyfriends; teen dropouts; teen pregnancies; teen gossip: I kid you not. These are things I overhear girls talking about every day at my high school. If anything, this book was more realistic in its portrayal of teens than anything I have read thus far. From what I have observed, my fellow teens drink this kind of ugly mellow drama right up: that is why we have shows like Jerry Springer and all its spin offs.

The flat-charactered teens in Tithe were much like the ones in my high school. Glorifying the petty rebellions of shoplifting and cigarette smoking? Check. Drooling lack of back-bone around a "hot" guy? Check. Petty jealous fights when one girl gets "friendly" with another's boyfriend? Check.

It is enough that I have to listen to such things at school, I don't want to read them in my escapist, fantasy books too.

In conclusion, this is not a book about fairies. It is a book about teen drama in which fairies are added as an appeal to the "Goth" culture that shops (or shop-lifts) at Hot Topic.

(I apologize that this is more of a rant than a review. Feel free to tack on as many "unhelpful" ratings as you want. I feel a certain amount of irony that no matter how many bad reviews this book gets, it will never dip below four stars. After all, Amazon knows: low ratings don't sell books.)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2008
This is my second attempt to publish a review of this book - the first one never showed up so don't know if this one will either...

I'll start off by saying that I went into this with a pretty open mind. I didn't know much about it - only that it was urban fantasy (or dark urban fantasy), which is my favorite genre. However, this book went well beyond dark into the realm of sadistic. I don't mind grit or tough characters but no one in this story was even likeable, with the possible exception of Roiben. Overall, the characters weren't interesting enough to compensate for all their shortcomings. It was just a cast of generally repulsive people doing generally repulsive things.

On top of that, the settings and situations were usually on the gross side - like the fairies being torn apart at the fairy court, Corny being abused and humiliated by his supposed love-interest (to the point where he had puncture wounds all over his arms and chest), Kaye's friend getting murdered for no good reason (it didn't add to the story or facilitate the plot), Kaye and Roiben being tortured at the end, etc. I mean, really?? Even the supposedly "romantic" ending came right on the heels of a pretty gross torture scene and a rushed, emotionally vacant funeral. I still felt nauseated as the main characters were having their quasi happy ending kiss.

Obviously this type of story appeals to some people but I'm not one of them. I'm giving it two stars instead of one because Holly Black is a decent writer and she certainly is imaginative. However, those are the only good things I can say about this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2008
So I was so excited about this book. But to be honest I was horribly disappointed. Good idea. Good start to characters. Horrible writing. The best way I can describe it was that her writing style in this book was haphazard. It felt jumpy and random. I was often left wondering where things came from; almost like this wasn't the first book in a series. But more often there would be a break in the continuity of the story or even characters, and I would be, "um . . . ok . . ." The plot twist left me thinking, "OK . . . Random. Was there a point?"

I also agree with many other reviewers in their views of the content not being appropriate for young adult readers. I am an adult and read a lot of teen and kids books and often feel that parents over-react to what is put in "child's" books, but with this I just felt it was overdone. Did a character have to be always smoking or needing to smoke? Just didn't sit right with me.

All in all I wished that this author instead of writing this story had passed it off to someone else. They might have taken what could have been a great story and actually pulled it off.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2005
I am a high school librarian. My students seem to prefer fantasy stories, and this looked like an interesting take on an old tale. I am personally a fan of retold fairy (faery? faerie?) tales. Alas, while the main story was at least interesting enough that I finished the book, I wasn't impressed. There was a scene with one of the teenaged male characters where he wants to punish them for slighting him... but that never went anywhere. He's kewl, gay, and reads manga. And lives in a trailer with his sister and mom. There is tragedy-- kids' deaths-- mentioned but never dealt with. The main character is soooo disaffected that she has to wear black clothing and torn fishnets. Puh-lease.

This book, overall, suffers in comparison to the book Black was obviously ripping off: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. I suggest picking up War for the Oaks instead; it's a better book with better characters, for all that it was written almost 20 years ago.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2010
I am 61 years old and I picked this book up for my niece but the cover intrigued me soo I started to read it. I have read it 6 times icluding the sequel Ironside. I assumed Holly Black was a writer just for kids. Boy was I wrong. She is like J K Rowlings her books are soo well written the are for all generations. Bravo! Ms. Black . I am now reading YA authors that I would have never read before your books and for that I thank you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
"Tithe" reads, for me, like early Charles de Lint or John Varley. Holly Black has a fluency with dialog and an ease in wrapping "modern" concerns (alcoholism, poverty, teenage social structure, gay sex) into the structure of the "classic" fairy story (Seelie vs. Unseelie courts). You've read the fairy story before: it's a variation of Tam Lin, with the refreshing difference that Kaye saves herself. But it's the vibrancy of the main character, her completely realized presence on the pages, that brings "Tithe" to life. If Holly Black's characters were five years older, her work wouldn't be categorized as Young Adult fiction and might have access to a wider audience. Don't be fooled by the Y/A tag: Holly Black's books belong on the shelf right next to Pamela Dean.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2009
First of all, I would just like to start off by saying that I usually read a lot of everything, classics, spanish novels, fiction, nonfiction, YA stuff, etc. & love my "guilty pleasures" like House of Night, City of Bones, etc. I thought Tithe was going to fall into that category. Whoa, was I wrong.
This is a gritty book, true. But that's not what is so annoying about it. I feel like I was thrown into the middle of a book with a lot of things & relationships to figure out on my own, which can be good sometimes, but each chapter dove into more info & barely any details & would leave me off w/out any explanations or resolutions. I mean, it just seemed like it didn't flow at all. Like each chapter was disconnected from the previous one.
Also, a lot of teenagers doing really shocking stuff just wears off after a few pages. And this book has one mission it seems - to just constantly try to shock it's readers...which turns monotone. I like books that set down a good theme & creative character development and interesting situations where I know if something is happening is good/bad for the characters, etc.
It just seems this book is a bunch of overly dragged out melodrama that loses it's drive after a few chapters. The writing, too - jeez, did Black have editors? - it was written by an angry & lonely 14 year old goth wannabe that haunts the streets of East Village in NYC, wallowing in it's angst.
I read 3-4 chapters & don't think i will continue.
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