87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2005
While I enjoyed the Spiderwick books, I was dying for Holly Black to return to writing for teens as she did in TITHE. I'm not a faery fan, but I loved what she did with TITHE, and I wanted to see if she would create more edgy, dark faery characters and settings. She is still Queen of the Shocker Opening: Val catches her boyfriend making it with her mom. Val's flight to New York after this results in her meeting with street teens who live in the tunnels under Grand Central. With them she comes to see the faerie world, not the Disney sugar-coated one, but the perilous one where humans can be used up and spat out, where the inhabitants are beautiful and deadly. Her new friends introduce her to Ravus, the troll pharmacist who brews potions, including the drug Never. It makes it possible for the faery people to live in our world without slow poisoning from exposure to iron, but it makes humans feel, and act, like the faeries. They can even do magic.
But there are problems. Never is addictive. Val, who earns Ravus's trust as they talk and she serves as a runner for his drugs to his faerie customers, becomes addicted and steals from him. And his customers are getting murdered. Ravus, with whom Val is falling in love, is the prime suspect, and the faerie court that exiled him and his customers to our world is coming to deal with the murders and with him.
This is a powerful book. It's about betrayal, homelessness, addiction and its poisonous effects on relationships and lifestyles, love, appearances, and hate. It's about making decisions and living with them. It's about choices. It's pure Holly Black, dark and wonderful and beautiful. No, it's not TITHE, and that's good. If I want to read TITHE, I have it on my shelf. And while I didn't set out to read about addicted kids, she says a lot of powerful things about how people get addicted to something, anything, without realizing that they're getting addicted. It doesn't have to be a substance--it can be a person, or a way of life. I'd like to know that, so when I feel like Val does in VALIANT, I'll know I'm drifting into an addictive mindset.
As always, I love it when a girl learns how to *be* Valiant.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
This isn't the kind of book that a synopsis suits -- if I'd come to it with no knowledge of Black's skill and had read that the book was about a runaway human girl who takes fairy drugs, I'd have assumed the worst and moved on. But Valiant isn't really about those things.
It's about obeying the insane suggestion to go go go that your lizard brain whispers when you're standing at a train station or an airport. It's about the rusty, dirty magic of New York wrapped around a girl with a broken heart. It's about following those beautiful people down the alley at 4am instead of finishing your watery coffee and catching the morning train home.
So I suppose she had me at St. Mark's Place, but there's more here than the trimmings; the story's bones are strong and important. This is the way a schoolgirl becomes troll defender, knight and protector, Valiant -- so hide your daughters, Missouri. This is a story that bangs out space for the girls who can't help standing up to bullies, and does so without even a whiff of the after-school special.
The same feel for the surreal within the ordinary that made Tithe, which is set in the same world, so successful is even more apparent in Valiant. The exiled fairies scattered across Manhattan are no stranger than the perceptual disconnect between the normal adults strolling through Greenwich Village and the homeless kids they step around without seeing. Black's monsters can be brutal and deadly, but no more than the heroine's own friends and family.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Once upon a time, though not so long ago, there lived a teenager named Valerie. Valerie lived with her mother in a single parent family relationship, played lacrosse in school, and was best friends with a girl who preferred girls as friends. Valerie had a foul mouth and a temper to match, and had a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate both of these when she caught her boyfriend cheating on her.
Being in possession of tickets to a hockey game at Madison Square Garden, Valerie fled to New York, where a chance meeting introduced her to a part of the New York Underground that usually only exists in the mind of Neil Gaiman and his ilk. Joining her new friends Lolli (as in pop) and Dave (just Dave), she officially became a runaway, living deep in the subway system and scavenging for her daily bread (and whatever else) on the streets (and in the alleyways and garbage cans) of Manhattan. She also met Luis, the leader of the little group, a strange young man with multiple body piercings and a both a weight and a chip on his shoulder.
Very soon, Valerie realized that there was more going on than communal living and scavenging, and here begins the grim faerie tale part of this story. As Holly Black tells it, there are faerie folk living among us, members of the Seelie Court, who appear to us as regular people (regular for Manhattanites at least) by magical means. Her friends have been working for a troll who lives under a bridge, and they have been trip trapping to and from his lair running errands in exchange for certain favors.
Soon Valerie becomes a part of the network, but when someone begins killing all the great faerie folk of Manhattan, alliances must be changed, loyalties questioned, and somebody has to get to the bottom of the matter before more innocent lives are lost.
This is a very dark faerie tale, and in telling it, the author also deals with betrayal, alternative lifestyles, drug abuse, casual carnal encounters, larceny, treachery, cruelty to animals, and more, all laced with generous helpings of profanity and teenage angst.
A modern faerie tale, and extremely well written, but recommended for more mature teenage readers due to the content.
Amanda Richards, November 24, 2007
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2005
Wow. I must confess I have never read 'Tithe' have disliked Spiderwick often just because people considered it 'my level', so when I read Valiant, I was really surprised how engrossing it was. Valiant is a real person. I know, you hear this about lots of main characters, and now thats the effect that authors try to create: that the character is a real person who's overcoming their struggles, and for Holly Black it works. Valiant is not a pretentious character.
I was a little put off by the fact that a little sex was almost always around the corner of a weird situation, but I think that has to do with some of the stereotypes of history, of fairies and teenagers in general. This book has a great style, and if it were a little more refined would probably be appropriate for all ages. As it is, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than say, 11, unless you are a good reader and don't care if there's the occasional 'grit' in your reading.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2005
I met Ms. Black at a conference in NJ in March, and bought Tithe, which I enjoyed quite a bit. When I read that her new book was out, I ordered it fairly quickly, even though I'm a good 30 years older than her reading demographic.
I wasn't disappointed. Knowing not to expect a direct sequel to Tithe, I took the story on its own merits. Part romance, part teen angst, part murder mystery, and all faery tale, Valiant moves surely from its initial startling Mcguffin, through an escalating series of events, to a clean and decidedly romantic conclusion. While I enjoyed Tithe, and understand why some people might prefer it, I found Valiant a crisper, cleaner read, its story more satisfying to my tastes, its characters more developed. People (and faeries) aren't who they seem to be, and Black handles the unfolding of the plot and the protagonist's journey and growth deftly, with a wealth of detail and heart. She pulls no punches, allows her characters flaws as well as virtues, and develops the story in a suprisingly realistic fashion, given the basis of the world she's created.
An excellent read, and highly recommended.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2006
People say this book is much too adult for teenagers, but I beg to differ. The explicit language, sexual overtones, and drug themes among teens are, sadly, much more realistic than adults would like to think. Black does tend to throw in too much shock value material, but as a fourteen-year-old I can say I wasn't scarred for life. Black is an expert at creating an atmosphere, and in Valiant she weaves a dark portrait of the outcasts of urban society, and some of Val's feelings are very relatable for teens. For instance, I could have sworn Holly Black reached into my head when Val was thinking about how she thought of herself as a secondary character, the one who set up one-liners instead of delivering them. The mature themes are dealt with without the moralizing that is so common in teen literature. If the writing had been shined up a bit, and the characters developed a little more, this could have been better than Tithe.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I hated loving this book. Having read Black's "Tithe" and "Ironside", I was none to keen on reading Valiant. Black has a penchant for writing about the scourge of human society, leaving me with a sense of filth, and therefore compelling me to exfoliate. None the less, Black's writing is so perversely alluring, that she all but grabs you by the neck and drags you into the story.
Val is impossible to describe. She's a shell of a girl. In possession of one lezzie best friend, a mohawk donning boyfriend, and incredibly vain and insecure mother, Val participates in her life, but couldn't be accused of living it. When Val walks in on her mother getting it on with her boyfriend, Val flees, going nowhere, and reveling in her lack of destination. She finds herself in New York City, homeless, but free. It is here that she encounters Lolli, a blue haired Never addict, Sketchy Dave, brother to the "sighted" Luis, and joins their trio of loner losers. Val is introduced to a world that will afford you every possible pleasure you care to take, while leaving you living in squalor and slowly choking the life from you, one Never hit at a time. Val drowns in the world of fairie, and yet finds her inner strength, as well as the love she craves. But in order to save herself, and the troll she loves, Val must learn that being free to make your own bad decisions serves no purpose other than enabling you to own your destruction.
The characters within this story suck at life. They make piss poor role models and I hope that younger readers of this book wouldn't think that Val's "adventure" is the least bit realistic. Val would have wound up dead, on in the very least, assaulted. These characters run from their problems, steal, take drugs, and engage in casual sex. And yet I loved this book because these characters drop f bombs, filch, become addicts, and engage in casual sex. Life isn't always pretty, and this book captures the essence of that filth while adding a touch of whimsy, and an acceptable happy ending
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2006
I teach high school English, and when I started the novel, I expected to recommend it to my library. Unfortunately, the language in the book was so realistic, and our school board policy to regressive, that this is not a possibility. This also prevent my directly recommending it to students, which I WOULD do. I certainly see the point in the profanity in the book; I am not creticizing the book for it. If, however, as a parent you think you are shielding your children from profanity by censoring what thy read, this book is not the ideal selection. It does an excellent job of dealing with the themes of isolation, coming of age, and loyalty, though, so I do recommend the book. My only real personal reservation is that the book is so "dark." And I like faeries, and with a book titled "A Modern Tale of Faerie," I expected more supernatural occurences. Faeries actually play a very small role. This is a novel about society's mistifts, drug abuse, etc; basically it is a tale of teen angst, dressed up a bit. I hope this does't sound like I did not like the novel; I did. It was very well written, and since I deal with teenagers every day, the portrayal of teens was quite accurate. I'd recommend this more to adults than teens, in fact.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2005
i read this book straight through. i couldn't put it down. i liked it, dare i say, even better then tithe. it had just the perfect mix of the real world and the faerie world. it was amazing. when val leaves home and becomes a part of a whole nother world the consequences are extrdinary. and the fight throughout to figure exactly who is at the bottom of it is always there. i found that it had the perfect combination of:mystery/romance/gothic faerie tale/modern faerie tale.
it was amazing, a read i would recommend to all who love the world of faeries.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2005
I stumbled across Tithe in the YA section while looking for a gift for my sister. I never gave it to her. I stumbled across Valiant in a similar way and bought it for myself immediately. Holly Black is an amazing writer. Her words paint this world so vividly, it's incredible. I read that MTV is turning Valiant into a movie. I can't wait. I just hope they can do the book justice.