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Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale Paperback – April 1, 2004
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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 the Audio CD edition.
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 the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I liked it too much to be 3 stars but not quite enough to give it 4, but that’s what I did. It starts off great but quickly segues into a little silly. But it picks up rather quickly and turns interesting.
The author hooked me from the opening segment: Kaye puts a cigarette butt in her mom’s beer. Had to keep reading after that.
I found it hard to believe that Kaye became friends so fast with Corny…and that she cared so much about his well being. In my mind, and according to the book, I had him pictured as a goofy, ugly-ish teenager with no friends. (His first scene in the book led us to believe that he had mental issues, at the very least.)
The story she created was fascinating. I loved all the various creatures. It was easy to get inside her creation. She did a wonderful job of describing everything. The book was fast paced with lots of entertainment.
There were a lot of mysteries going on within the story. Some were easy to figure out but many were not. I was still uncertain till the end. AND there are still many mysteries to be solved with the coming books. I’m not certain at this time if I will be reading them, as I’m doing the PopSugar 2015 reading challenge. But I’ll keep them in my radar.
While you might think of Amanada Hocking's Trylle when you think of this book, dont. It's completely different. And as much as I like Hocking (and have read every book) this is actually a better, more well written book.
If you are looking for a book for your teens to read you should be aware that there is lots of language in this book, plus some mature themes, and of course, a romance with several kisses.
The similarities are striking. Both are short YA books, with nice prose and likable main characters thrown into `weird' paranormal situations. Both have the action so condensed as to occasionally be confusing. Both wrap themselves up in the last quarter in a way that compromises the believability of the secondary characters. Both have unhappy but not completely tragic endings. While White Cat's premise is perhaps a tad more original, I found Tithe`s creepy fairy flavor more to my taste. Not that I didn't like the first, but I really liked certain things about the second.
Tithe is written in third person past, with the protagonist Kaye dominating the POV. Mysteriously, approximately 5-10% is from the point of view of her friend Corny, and about 2% from the romantic interest. These outside POVs felt wrong, and at least in the Kindle version, no scene or chapter breaks announced the transitions. Every time one happened I was confused for a paragraph or two and knocked out of the story. Still, said story was more than good enough to overcome this minor technical glitch.
Kaye is an unhappy 16 year-old with a loser mom. When they move back to New Jersey she is rapidly involved with the Fey, discovers she's a green skinned pixie, and gets drawn into a conflict between the Seelie and Unseelie (rival fairy) courts. It's a fun read, and the prose is fast and evocative of the fey mood. Ms Black seemed to have done at least some research and the feel is quite good. The loose descriptive style sketches some rather fantastic creatures and scenarios, and that works. There is some darkness (which I like), and wham bam death of secondary characters without the proper emotional digestion. There is sexuality, but no sex (boo hiss!).
But I really like the way she handled the fairies. There isn't a lot of description, but what there was left me filling in my own detailed, sordid, and mysterious collage of imagery.
I was loving the first two third of the book, and then it pivoted a bit and lost me a little. Don't get me wrong, I still liked it, but the last third felt sketchier. The author had a bunch of double takes and betrayals on her outline, and it felt to me that it didn't really matter if the secondary characters got to be true to themselves -- they just followed the script. The protagonists best friend dies in like two seconds, and there is barely any reaction. Everyone also seemed to roll way too easily with the rather gigantic punches (as in Fairies are real). And to be darn good at picking up new powers in no time at all. This is a typical issue, and very hard to address perfectly, but it always bugs me when magic seems too easy. White Cat had the same final act issues.
It's still a fun book -- way above average -- with nice prose and breakneck pace. But the potential for great gave way to merely very good.
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