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Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest



The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

Release Date: January 13, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown (Hatchette)

Oh, you guys. Few authors make me anxiously await release days quite like Holly Black. Beloved creator of one of my favorite trilogies (The Curse Workers, oh sweet lawd), Holly writes fantasy that’s on another level of awesome. So when her latest novel, a standalone entitled The Darkest Part of the Forest, hit shelves this month, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a modern faerie tale full of magic, but without the clichés. A sister and brother grow up in their small town of Fairfold, where humans and faeries coexist – well, relatively peacefully. Hazel and Ben spend their childhood playing as a knight and bard, using Hazel’s bravery and Ben’s musical magic to hunt faeries who break the town’s tenuous agreement. All the while, they both fall in love with the horned boy who sleeps in a glass coffin in the forest. (“They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh.”) But now, years later, Ben doesn’t play, Hazel’s hiding a secret, and the sleeping prince has awoken. And something even darker is stirring.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I adored this book. This was such a well-rounded story! The love stories were romantic, but the scary parts genuinely conjured up feelings of anxiety and fear in me. Brave, fierce Hazel who kisses boys because she wants to and dreams of being a knight – I loved her.

“She goes through this world as if nothing touches her, as if no one can reach her, as though she’s focused on something bigger and better and more important that she’s not going to tell you a single thing about” (229).

I developed a stronger appreciation for Ben and his gift/curse of music as the story progressed. I’m always happy to see more diversity and LGBT representation in YA fiction (welcome to 2015, society!), so brava to Holly Black for such representative characters. As a side note, Ben’s love story was one of my favorite aspects of the entire book. Brilliant.

Jack, Ben’s best friend, is a changeling (a faerie child replaced with a human one), and his story is a great part of the novel. Holly Black writes faeries so well – tricky and manipulative but still enchanting, and the dichotomy between faeries and humans in this town is such an intense dynamic. The story of how Jack stays with his human family is a great representation of that divide. The sleeping prince Severin is the member of this team that gets the least screen time, but makes such an impact. He’s beautiful, and smarmy, and a bit scary.

“I love you like in the storybooks. I love you like in the ballads. I love you like a lightning bolt. I’ve loved you since the third month you came and spoke with me…I love and you and I am mocking no one when I kiss you, no one at all” (296-297).

The story itself is brilliant – well paced with lots of action, romance, and mythology. There are surprises and plot twists, one of the best of which revolves around Hazel and her secret. Amazing. I find standalones to be tricky sometimes – often I’m just greedy and want more. It’s difficult to create a world and tell a story in just a single novel, but Holly Black did it in such a seamless way. This is definitely a book that I’ll want to read again (and soon!), and in that sense standalones are great for rereads. I became so enraptured with this story and these characters. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good faerie tale.

Goodreads rating: 4.5/5 stars

Have you read this or any other books my Holly Black? Share your thoughts below!

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