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The Darkest Part of the Forest Paperback – January 19, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—A small town, sibling pairs, a beautiful horned boy who has been entombed in a clear casket for as long as anyone in the town can remember, and a dark forest inhabited by Fae folk of all shapes, sizes, and temperments—these are just a few of the elements Black blends together to create this riveting and engrossing story that pits four teens against an evil ruler. Hazel made a bargain at age 11 with one of the Fae, trading seven years of her life so her brother Ben could perfect his musical skills at a school in Philadelphia, but things went terribly wrong, and now she feels completely alone, and Ben no longer plays. When the horned boy is freed and tells Hazel and Ben why he was entombed, they must risk more than they ever imagined to help him. Narrator Lauren Fortgang is perfect for this book. VERDICT This terrific fantasy is highly recommended for teens who like magical creatures, a bit of mystery, unusual romances, and plenty of action.—John R. Clark, Hartland Public Library, ME --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
*"Black returns here to the dark faery realm that spurred her initial success, and if anything, she's only gotten better, writing with an elegant, economical precision and wringing searing emotional resonance from the simplest of sentences."―The Bulletin, starred review
*"Black returns to the realm of faerie for her latest novel, and the results, as any of her fans would expect, are terrific."―VOYA, starred review
"Black's stark, eerie tone; propulsive pacing; and fulsome world building will certainly delight her legion of fans."―Booklist
"This edgy, dark fantasy will be a hit with young adults who like their magical creatures to live in a recognizably contemporary world."―Library Media Connection
"Like a true fairy tale, Black's story weds blinding romance and dark terrors, but her worthy heroes are up to the challenge of both."―The Horn Book
"It's an enjoyable read with well-developed characters and genuine chills...."―Publishers Weekly
Praise for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown:
*"Teens with a yen for dark, futuristic novels, and maybe even a few Anne Rice readers, will find this a refreshing take on vampire lit. As always, Black's writing is quick paced and thought-provoking. A must-have for any teen collection."―School Library Journal, starred review
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I've been a huge fan of Holly Black since reading White Cat and she has yet to disappoint me. The story immediately drew me in with the town that is both aware and in denial about the supernatural creatures and forces influencing the town in the periphery. I am a sucker for this concept. It brings to mind Sunnydale from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and New South Bend from Brenna Yovanoff's Fiendish. All of these works have a magnetic quality where the townspeople experience all this craziness, but rationalize it with normal causes. When confronted with the unbelievable reality, they tend to lash out and then go back to their comfortable, normal reality as soon as possible. Growing up in such a forest definitely affects the young people in the area while the adults seem pretty oblivious, only brought out of it by tragedy. The teens in the area are surprisingly normal despite the things they've experienced.
Hazel and Ben are pretty normal. Hazel gets herself into trouble by kissing boy after boy and living life to the fullest despite the consequences. Ben is the angsty artists type because was blessed/cursed by a faerie as a baby to have an exceptional musical talent and feels great guilt over how he has let it get out of control in the past. They are so similar in other ways. Both are boy crazy in their own way and want to find lasting love. Both of them love each other fiercely, but also try to keep huge secrets to protect the other when it does the exact opposite. I loved reading these characters and their mistakes and blunders powered by their love. I forgave all of their sometimes frustrating mistakes because it came from a good place and they were only doing their best. I especially liked the way Ben was treated. His sexual orientation just was; no explanation or special treatment needed. No one in his life treated him any differently. The other character I loved was Jack, a changeling child all grown up and raised as human alongside the human boy he was meant to replace. The concept alone is amazing and one I haven't seen. Jack acts as the bridge between the two worlds and can't decide which one he belongs in. He has significant ties to both sides and either choice would be a betrayal.
The book is organized in an odd way. The plot isn't really solidified until much later than expected in the novel. The beginning is just establishing the world and exploring into the lives of the main characters. The plot moves forward and then there's intermittent flashbacks to show why characters are the way they are or background on what's presently happening. If you hate stories jumping around, this wouldn't be for you, but I enjoyed it. Things became clear the more the flashbacks happened and it just shows Holly Black's writing skill. The revelations are doled out carefully and bring clarity to the story. I really enjoyed the journey and exploration through Holly Black's unique world. I hope another book is in the works in the same world (because I would be all over it), but it works very well as a stand alone novel. It's one of the best reads of the year so far.
The Darkest Part of the Forest is a modern faerie tale full of magic, but without the clichés. A sister and brother grow up in their small town of Fairfold, where humans and faeries coexist - well, relatively peacefully. Hazel and Ben spend their childhood playing as a knight and bard, using Hazel's bravery and Ben's musical magic to hunt faeries who break the town's tenuous agreement. All the while, they both fall in love with the horned boy who sleeps in a glass coffin in the forest. ("They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh.") But now, years later, Ben doesn't play, Hazel's hiding a secret, and the sleeping prince has awoken. And something even darker is stirring.
You won't be surprised to hear that I adored this book. This was such a well-rounded story! The love stories were romantic, but the scary parts genuinely conjured up feelings of anxiety and fear in me. Brave, fierce Hazel who kisses boys because she wants to and dreams of being a knight - I loved her.
"She goes through this world as if nothing touches her, as if no one can reach her, as though she's focused on something bigger and better and more important that she's not going to tell you a single thing about" (229).
I developed a stronger appreciation for Ben and his gift/curse of music as the story progressed. I'm always happy to see more diversity and LGBT representation in YA fiction (welcome to 2015, society!), so brava to Holly Black for such representative characters. As a side note, Ben's love story was one of my favorite aspects of the entire book. Brilliant.
Jack, Ben's best friend, is a changeling (a faerie child replaced with a human one), and his story is a great part of the novel. Holly Black writes faeries so well - tricky and manipulative but still enchanting, and the dichotomy between faeries and humans in this town is such an intense dynamic. The story of how Jack stays with his human family is a great representation of that divide. The sleeping prince Severin is the member of this team that gets the least screen time, but makes such an impact. He's beautiful, and smarmy, and a bit scary.
"I love you like in the storybooks. I love you like in the ballads. I love you like a lightning bolt. I've loved you since the third month you came and spoke with me...I love and you and I am mocking no one when I kiss you, no one at all" (296-297).
The story itself is brilliant - well paced with lots of action, romance, and mythology. There are surprises and plot twists, one of the best of which revolves around Hazel and her secret. Amazing. I find standalones to be tricky sometimes - often I'm just greedy and want more. It's difficult to create a world and tell a story in just a single novel, but Holly Black did it in such a seamless way. This is definitely a book that I'll want to read again (and soon!), and in that sense standalones are great for rereads. I became so enraptured with this story and these characters. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good faerie tale.