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Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale Paperback – April 1, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 381 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Modern Faerie Tale Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sixteen-year-old Kaye Fierch is not human, but she doesn't know it. Sure, she knows she's interacted with faeries since she was little--but she never imagined she was one of them, her blond Asian human appearance only a magically crafted cover-up for her true, green-skinned pixie self. First-time author Holly Black explores Kaye's self-discovery and dual worlds in her riveting, suspenseful novel Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. The book has its faults: it slips into shock-value mode; the descriptions are often overwritten (sunset on the water looks like the sun slit his wrists in a bathtub); the language is overly, unnecessarily explicit; and the writing often unpolished. Still, the story's pull is undeniable, and readers under its spell will be hard-pressed to put the book down.

The novel begins in a bar in Philly, where Kaye's alcoholic rock-singer mother's boyfriend tries to kill her. For their own safety, mother and daughter quickly move back to grandma's on the New Jersey shore where Kaye grew up. This ugly turn of events was all rigged by the Faerie world, as it turns out, a world Black describes in deliciously vivid, if rather overblown, detail. Kaye, a drinking, smoking, foul-mouthed high school dropout in the land of mortals, soon finds herself embroiled--as a human sacrifice, no less--in a battle between Faerieland's Seelie and more malevolent Unseelie courts. The beautiful, mysterious knight Roiben, torn between worlds himself, falls in love with Kaye--the brave, clever changeling--against his better judgment. Throughout the electrifying journey to the horrific underworld of this modern faerie fantasy, teen readers will relate to a hard-luck tough girl who feels alienated, discovers her best qualities in the worst of circumstances, and finally finds a place between worlds where she can feel at home. (Ages 13 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Tripping the dark fantastic with newcomer Black means pixie dust may very well include blood spatter, sharp thorns and bits of broken glass. At the center of this edgy novel is Kaye Fierch, a 16-year-old "Asian blonde" who spends most of her time taking care of a would-be rock star mom. When her mom's latest boyfriend turns homicidal, they return to Gram's house at the New Jersey shore, where Kaye hooks up with childhood friend Janet and her gay brother, Corny Stone. Stark images ripple through the third-person narrative, offering clues to Kaye's internal state (e.g., "She loved the serene brutality of the ocean"). A covert sexual overture from Janet's boyfriend precedes Kaye's nighttime encounter at the edge of the woods, where she meets and rescues Roiben, a mysterious Black Knight with silver hair. Throughout, the author subtly connects Kaye's awakening sexual feelings in the real world and Roiben's sudden appearances. Kaye soon discovers that she is a changeling-and that her one-time "imaginary" faerie playmates want her to pretend to be a human, so they can use her as the Tithe ("the sacrifice of a beautiful and talented mortal") to earn their freedom for seven years. The author's Bosch-like descriptions of the Unseelie Court, with its Rackham-on-acid denizens, and the exquisite faeries haunt as well as charm. When fate intervenes, sudden tragedy teaches Kaye about the high cost of straddling the faerie and human worlds (and sets the stage for a possible sequel). A gripping read. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Faerie Tale
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689867042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689867040
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (381 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barks Book Nonsense TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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