Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black



The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published: January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale, Magic, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
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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?

Fairfold has a fairy problem. The citizens of this town have lived side by side with the Folk of the woods, maybe not completely peacefully, but at least successfully. Obey the rules and don’t act like a tourist and you’ll be fine. But something has upset the balance and now Fairfold finds itself under attack. I was really excited to read The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. I was ambivalent about her Curse Workers series but adore The Spiderwick Chronicles. (Yes, I’m an adult and I read The Spiderwick Chronicles in my 20’s.) So I knew I had a 50/50 chance of liking The Darkest Part of the Forest. Anything with fairies is an attention grabber for me. I was ready for a good old romp in an unspecified medieval European setting and was very pleased to find that The Darkest Part of the Forest was set in modern times, complete with cellphones and IPods. It makes the setting and characters easier to identify with. The characters were amazing but the pacing of events was a little frustrating.

The world-building and storytelling were delightful. The way in which Fairfold and the forest are crafted with modern and fairytale elements is fascinating. People of Fairfold drive cars and use cellphones but at the same time follow a set of fairytale rules like a Grimm story, wearing Ronan wood charms and carrying oatmeal and iron nails in their pockets. It’s an interesting amalgamation of two very different themes and I loved it. It took me a while to get into the characters. Hazel, the main female character, started off as a character I didn’t much like, kissing boys like it was a game and breaking hearts right and left with no remorse, but this quickly falls to the wayside as the story progresses and she gets less annoying and more interesting. We get a bit of a fake out with the horned boy. For as much significance placed on him in the beginning, it’s actually another fairy boy who features more in the story. But that would be telling…

I must congratulate Holly Black on a masterful use of a homosexual character, Ben. Why do I call it masterful? Because it’s not thrust into your face, like the author is crowing that she included a homosexual character in her book. Ben is an important character; his sexuality is kind of secondary to the chaos that is going on. In fact, Ben ends up with the fairy prince and it’s done without fanfare. I want to hug Holly Black for not making Ben a joke or holding him up as an oddity to be gawked at. Not a single aspect of Ben as a gay man is trivialized by some ignorant stereotype. Nothing unusual to see here, people. Move along.

I did have problems with the pacing of events and there was a lot of information bumping. I know it’s hard to get information out there in a fairytale because a lot of the information is oral, told through spoken stories. It’s not like anybody wrote down the fairy prince’s story for Hazel to find but it’s always a little disappointing when information is just dumped into your lap. It’s anticlimactic. The pacing of events was very uneven. Things would start happening and I would think the book was finally picking up steam only for it to flag again. It was frustrating being jerked around like that. Kind of like running into a wall when you’re trying to sprint.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a creepy and sinister fairytale. There is no Tinkerbell here, people. The Folk are creatures unlike any cute, childhood story you may remember. I liked that. The Fey are nothing to joke around with and it’s nice that Holly Black didn’t shy away from the darker creatures that are cruel and murderous. There are a couple of tropes that made me roll my eyes a little and I felt like the secondary characters could have used a bit more fleshing out. The fairy prince and the monster at the heart of the forest were kind of left in the dust. Maybe there were simply too many characters and too much focus on Hazel being a special snowflake. The romances were rushed, dull and, it felt, stuck on there just for appearances sake. The atmosphere of the story was incredible but the plot was chaotic and kept me from really loving it. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black has fantastic world-building but fails in the execution a little.

Thank you for reading!

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About Patricia @ Lady with Books

I'm a 34 year old female. Brown hair. Blue eyes. I spend a great deal of my time surfing the internet and blogging. I enjoy cooking. I make a mean sautéed vegetable dish. I write. I read.

Posted on October 28, 2015, in book review, books, fiction, modern fairy tale and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hm… I’d been wanting to read this one. Didn’t Black also edit a fairy tale re-telling anthology? I wonder if fairy tale short stories would be more entertaining. Thanks for reviewing!

    • I think you mean The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm. Black edited that and several other anthologies. I haven’t read it but it’s on my TBR list. Let me know if you do read it. I always get mixed feelings with reading short story anthologies. I always want more of my favorite stories.

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