The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
This was a really nice look at the Fair Folk in all of their glory and horror. It didn’t get as dark as it could’ve – especially given the title of the book – but there were definite glimpses of exactly why even the ‘nice’ Fae were feared.
The mixing of magic and mundane was well done, I thought. Fairfold stands as any other small town in America except for the addition of the Fae, and this showed quite nicely in the way the residents were a mix of uncaring about the Fae and cautious about them. The true menace came most, I felt, in where the two worlds mixed most heavily – the two ‘attacks’ by the Fair Folk on the normal daylight world.
And I like how Black didn’t shy away from showing how gifts from the Fair Folk are also curses and how curses can also be gifts. This shows most obviously with Ben and Hazel, although of course the Fair Folks’ idea of a ‘gift’ is obviously quite different from a normal human’s, and that too was well-illustrated.
Hazel was definitely the main character, and I thought she was sympathetic without being incredibly likeable, a difficult balance to maintain. Her actions made sense in the context of her character and her situation, even though I feel like I would’ve made different choices were I in her place – but then, that’s the difference between her personality and mine.
I do wish Black had gone more in-depth with the characters, however. They felt real, yes, but they also felt like they were only surfaces. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say it always felt like I was one step removed from the characters and what was happening. In some respects, that did make it feel more like a fairy tale, but in others it made it difficult to really get into the novel.
In total, 3.5 stars.