Also by this author: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1), The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 13th 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, LGBT, Love & Romance, Siblings, Young Adult
Pages: 336 •Format: Hardcover •Source: Library
In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives....Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Tourists drive in to see the lush wonders of Faerie and, most wonderful of all, the horned boy. But visitors fail to see the danger.Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.Until one day, he does....As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be. But as she's swept up in new love, with shifting loyalties and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?The Darkest Part of the Forest, is the bestselling author Holly Black's triumphant return to the opulent, enchanting faerie tales that launched her YA career.
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re wondering how in the heck I only gave this book 2.5 stars.
You’re probably wondering if I even read the same book as you did.
Well, full disclosure: It breaks my heart to rate this book so low, but it just didn’t work for me.
I was so so excited to read The Darkest Part of the Forest, as it was the first novel I picked up by Holly Black. I had read her short story in the anthology My True Love Gave To Me and I adored it. I immediately wanted to read everything by her. I heard all of the rave reviews, and I went in with very, very high expectations. I was unfortunately an unwitting victim of the hype monster.
Before you exit your browser in a fit of rage, hear me out.
The Darkest Part of the Forest has a lot of great things about it. My favorite aspect was the world building, as Black seems to have the magic touch when it comes to magical realism in YA. I loved the idea that Fairfold was a “contemporary” town that coexisted with the fae, and it was just a fact of life, two species dancing delicately around each other for decades. I loved how Black had little folk tales and flashbacks sprinkled throughout the novel that really painted a vivid picture of the fair folk’s interactions with humans. I loved the mythical quality of the town and the mystery surrounding the sleeping prince. I want more YA where the paranormal and painfully normal coincide and co-exist knowingly.
However, I found that I couldn’t really connect with the novel. Hazel and Ben and Jack all sounded fine in theory, but I feel like I didn’t really get to the point where I cared about what happened to them. Perhaps they paled too much next to their supernatural neighbors? I found also that I was often bored and wasn’t dying to pick up the book after I had set it down, as 75% of it consisted of Hazel trying to hide very important things from everyone else (and does this ever work out for the better in novels? Absolutely not). I also felt that the romances were sort of rushed, with everyone being paired off conveniently at the end. The central draw of the synopsis of the novel was also the mystery surrounding the sleeping horned prince, but he didn’t feel as mysterious or monumentally important to the book when *highlight for spoiler* he was released from his glass coffin very early on and walked around driving people crazy with his cryptic demands and kissing indiscriminately. Honestly, he didn’t seem much different than a typical teenage male character to me.
In a lot of ways this book almost read more middle grade for me. The plot becomes rather simplistic: stop the monster and save the town. I think this could partially be due to the fact that Hazel and Ben’s involvement with the Fae stems back to when they were small children and would go “hunting” for them in the woods, so in a lot of ways it constantly felt like Hazel and Ben were out of their league when it came to the supernatural elements, and I never really got a sense of urgency when dangerous things happened, because they felt more like characters pretending to be heroes.
Overall: The Darkest Part of the Forest fell flat for me. It had great world building and a charming atmosphere, but I felt more like I was reading a middle grade novel. I found I personally couldn’t connect with the characters or engage with the plot in more than a obligatory way. Yet this has not prevented me from still wanting to experience more of Holly Black’s writing. I really, really still want to try out her other novels and engage more with her talent for writing atmospheric settings and crafting magical realism. This book just didn’t capture my heart the way her writing has before.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge