The Darkest Part of the Forest

This is one I’d wanted to read since I first heard it was coming out.

The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Little, Brown and Co, 2015.
Hazel and Ben are teen twins living in Fairfold, a modern-day town with close ties to Faerie. Close as in Ben’s best friend, Jack, is a changeling, still living with his human brother Carter, since Carter’s mother fought to get her own baby back and decided that the fairy mother wasn’t fit to have her son back if she was willing to give him back in the first place. Close as in there’s a glass coffin in the woods with a sleeping horned boy in it.

Outsiders come from all over to see the horned boy, but they don’t seem to be able to remember or remark on the darker things that happen in Fairfold, things like tourists regularly going missing. And while all the teens regularly party on and around the coffin, Hazel and Ben have been coming there on their own since they were kids, pretending that Hazel was a knight fighting monsters and Ben her bard, both of them hoping for the regard of the prince in the coffin.

Now it’s clear that the fragile balance that has held in Fairfold is cracking. Darker things are on the way, and Hazel and Ben’s secret pretendings will come out into the open and turn out not to be pretend.

Hazel and Ben are both scarred from growing up with their neglectful parents and in such close proximity to magic, as even the kindest of the Fae do not really have human interests in the fore. So it is that they have twisted their own lives to protect each other, making the relationship between the two of them both loyal and full of lies. The book is full of curses as blessings, lies and truths that are not what they seem on the surface.

Black works her usual magic to make the old  stories of untrustworthy faeries into something surprising. I loved how the gender roles were reversed, with Hazel being the warrior and Ben the openly gay musician. (The partying and dating behavior of the teens in this book pegs it solidly as one for high school and up.) Black is drawing mostly on British folklore, but modern-day Fairfold isn’t lily-white: Carter and his family have Yoruba ancestors, and some of that folklore is woven in as well. This is Holly Black in top form, mingling modern-day concerns seamlessly with the old legends into something compelling and darkly beautiful.

You could pair this with any of Black’s previous works, such as Good Neighbors: Kin and White Cat. Maggie Stiefvater’s books (Ballad, Shiver, The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys) also have a similar real modern day and real magic feel, while Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver takes an adult (in the library sense) spin on encounters with the fae.

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About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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One Response to The Darkest Part of the Forest

  1. Pingback: 2015 in Review – the Books | alibrarymama

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