Book Review – ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ by Holly Black

The double edged sword of having Fae folk as neighbours.. it can only be delicious and terrifying.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

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? 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ – Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.

I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.

The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, dispatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.

Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.

Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.

Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.

A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.

Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?

Overall feeling: One word – Cute.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Down the rabbit hole.

Falling into Wonderland, abducted by aliens, entering a wormhole… so many fantastic explanations for losing time which are far more interesting than getting lost in your writing.

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(Artwork by Su Blackwell, image from 123inspiration.com)

This past month has been consumed by writing. I fell down the rabbit hole and spent days on end in front of the computer screen tapping out chapter after chapter. It might sound great: a spurt of productivity and pages and pages of prose appearing out of nothing. But it does not come without a cost. You lose time.

I lost weeks somewhere amongst the compulsive typing. I forgot to eat: I’ll make some toast after this chapter… let me just finish this dialogue… and on it went. I lost touch with reality: forgetting to pay bills, or have a conversation with my housemates, go grocery shopping, house cleaning. Luckily I have great friends and family who understand that I occasionally drop off the radar and are content to wait, or pop over to pitch in to ensure I take a break.

I’m not sure if I intentionally created my busy streak – it has been six months of difficult firsts since Mum passed away. Recently I’ve had my birthday, her birthday and Mother’s Day alone. I pictured myself as a bag of nerves and sorrow, dramatically pouring out emotion on to the page to help me work through it all; sounds like such a romantic notion. In reality I simply went numb. Life was still for a while. I’m not saying this to illicit pity or comfort from anyone, but merely illustrating how at times as writers we put on blinkers so that all exists is the page in front of us.

Even at work, I would frequently pop in my ear buds (either with or without music) and block out any distractions to complete the task at hand. It’s that same single-mindedness that helps me push through pain, elevate my concentration and completely immerse myself in a book or movie.

It’s in this state I get out the bulk of my quality writing. Being in the moment. How many of us enter this fugue-like state when we are creating prose?

I’m usually such a control freak, planning and organising my day to complete a checklist – but I’ve learnt that there are times when you have to let go and just let things happen. Let the emotion flow, let inspiration strike. It has definitely made life more interesting and helped me accomplish things I never thought possible at first.

Nonetheless, I’m exiting the tunnel. Climbing back to the day to day, now left with plenty of editing and re-writing… and maybe a little outing or two to enjoy some sunshine!

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Don’t let people suck away all your creativity … by Casey Carlisle

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I’m talking about spiritual vampires… the leeches that feed on your ideas, positivity and diminish your motivation.

We’ve all come across someone in our lives who affects you in a negative way, stresses you out, puts you or your ideas down. A person who is always making negative statements and complaining. It can impact your writing (or whatever your medium may be), and stifle your flow if not careful. We are all artists and wordsmiths, and once doubt and frustration infect your soul in can taint your every thought and is difficult to shake.

I like to use these types of characters as inspiration for traits in include in the cast of my novels, funnelling all that ‘woe-is-me’ on to the page. It can add an interesting story arc for redemption or offer a challenge (or comparison) for your protagonist.

Turn a negative into a positive. Got writers block? Write about a writer who’s hit a wall and what has snuffed out his or her inspiration. Hey, at least it gets you writing again! Turning the cogs in that ol’ noggin of yours.

My best friend calls it the ‘Pollyanna Approach.’ How I always take the crap in my life and use it as fertilizer to grow something rewarding. I know it sounds like your typical overcoming adversity, or finding the optimist spiel, but I think it is a valuable lesson in taking stock of our surrounds when we work in a creative field. The environment and people around us can inversely measure against our process.

I only say all of this because, from my own personal experience, early on in my writing career there were many nay-sayers regarding my probability of earning a living out of this vocation. By devaluing the thing I was most passionate about, it quelled most of my urge to continuing to write. It took me several years to wake up one day and announce, ‘What the hey – I can’t not write.’ And so I did. Not for a job. Hell, not even with the thought I was going to turn it into a full time career. I started because I wanted to do it for myself. There were just too many ideas crowding my head I needed to get down on paper.

Now, because I no longer pay attention to anyone doubting my storytelling skills, I am so much happier. Words continue to flow. Novels continue to pour out of me. So don’t let the doubting thomas’ or saboteurs control your passion. Do it for yourself. Be proud of your creations.

We need to support each other, give a pat on the back and compliment those who can pluck ideas out of thin air. They lead, entertain, teach… what we do is important. So next time you feel like the walls are closing in, take a look around you and identify what is the source of your dilemma – and use it!

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.