Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the ForestTitle: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: January 13, 2015

A Quick Introduction: When they were young, Hazel and Ben hunted faeries in the woods behind they're home- the dark woods full of creatures that prowled, preying on unwary tourists. The town of Fairfold has an uneasy relationship with the fae, fear mixed with fascination. They town's greatest attraction is faery boy, sleeping in a glass coffin- one whom Hazel and Ben have adored since they were children, and who hasn't moved for generations. Until one day, when the town wakes to find the glass coffin shattered, and the boy awake. But he isn't the only thing that has awoken, something stirs at the heart of the forest, and nobody in the town is safe.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: An enthralling faery standalone with a vibrant cast and wonderful setting.

Review: In a word, this book was captivating. For me it was one of those books that, when you're reading it, you almost forget that you're reading.

The Darkest Part of the Forest features a vibrant cast of characters. They've lived with the knowledge of their dangerous otherworldly neighbours from childhood (and then, of course, some of them are the aforementioned dangerous, otherworldly creatures). Hazel is a fierce, stubborn and very brave, but she makes reckless decisions, and will do just about anything to hold onto her childhood vocation- hunting down the fae that harmed tourists with her brother. Ben is a musician- though not by choice. He was "gifted" the talent and compulsion to play by a faery when he was a child. Where Hazel is fierce, he is the softer sibling. They're contrasts in a lot of ways- she's a fighter, he's a musician, he's a romantic, she generally prefers to avoid commitment- but they work well together, though they sometimes don't quite trust each other.

Their relationship, as well as, to a lesser degree, their troubled relationship with their artist parents, were an important part of the story. There was romance, both for Hazel and for Ben, but it didn't play as much of a role in the plot. Those added another dimension to the story, but weren't all that dominant.

The setting was one that I really enjoyed. I think I've got a soft spot for strange little towns with magic at their edges. Those who live in Fairfold are aware of the fae, many wear protective charms, and exist in shaky harmony with them. The fae don't attack the townspeople, but may go after tourists if they aren't being careful. Those are the fae that Hazel spent her pre-teen years hunting with Ben. I really liked the elements of fae folklore woven into the town- the talismans, the herbs, the day-to-day rituals that are just a part of life for those that live there. It made the world feel real.

This book is a very quick read. Its fast-paced, when there isn't actual action, there's the uncovering of secrets- there's always something happening. The plot was, overall, fairly simple, but still enjoyable. The world is, for the most part, introduced through the actions of those who live in it, rather than through prolonged amounts of exposition, which lends the book a flow. This book juggles past and present, showing snapshots of what it was like for Hazel and Ben to grow up next to a forest full of monstrous and beautiful creatures, with parents who were quite inattentive (at best) to their two young children, allowing them to do more-or-less whatever they liked, and how this upbringing shaped to the teenagers that lead the story.

The strongest parts of this book were the characters and setting, and it was overall a very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the use of faery mythology, and I'm looking forward to reading what Holly Black releases next (and possibly working through some of her older books).

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