Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Bought from Fully Booked
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal
Other classifications: Fae, LGBTQIA, Young Adult
In the woods is a glass coffin. 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 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?
There are books written so beautifully that you stop from time to time to read passages aloud, as though just by uttering the words they become more alive—breathing, dancing around you. The Darkest Part of the Forest is such one. This is my first of Holly Black’s titles and, already, I’m thinking: this is the power of words. A person can stitch them in a way that does wonders.
“He was every bit as monstrously beautiful as he’d ever been. You could drown in beauty like that.”
A thoughtful blend of contemporary and folkloric, it is easy to get lost in the world of Fairfold—where faeries and elves and dwarves exist at the same time with iPod and Coke. The fantasy is exquisite, in that it isn’t too fantastical to swallow yet enough to draw you back to the days when you believed in once-upon-a-times. But at the heart of it, The Darkest Part of the Forest is as much about family dysfunction. I adore how Black played at subtlety in revealing all that transpired between Hazel and Ben now and Hazel and Ben then, weaving a rich, raw tapestry of love and insecurity and what brothers and sisters say to one another and what they don’t. The only letdown is I wish there was more as to why the parents behave the way they behaved. I wish there was more to glimpse at.
“The worst part was how quietly she wept, as if she’d taught herself how, as if she was so used to doing it that it had just become the way she cried.”
The character voice is distinct and strong, with the narrative alternating from Hazel and Ben and, at times, Jack. I love that Hazel is fierce and headstrong but that she’s also terrified and lonely and she knows all that. I love that Ben believes in love in the storybooks and craves it and that he knows his flaws. I find Severin’s character interesting, in such a way that he turned out to be far from what I initially imagined. And to top it all, I love the sarcasm thrown in sporadically.
“It was right out of a fairy tale, crazy and terrifying.”
I also think the author couldn’t have found a more fitting epigraph. The ending, which I have a sense not to spoil, is absolutely brilliant. Do yourself a favor and read The Darkest Part of the Forest.
Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), the Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. She was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, a finalist for Eisner Award, and a recipient of both the Andre Norton Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son, in a house with a secret door.