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.

Book Review – The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Bowel trembling fear and courage in the face of things with pointy teeth.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Horror

No. of pages: 419

From Goodreads:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I revelled in this book. It felt a little long in parts, but enjoyed the world and Tana (our protagonist) battling her way through an infected continent to find her place within it. Nearly passing over this title because of the vampire element – there are so many books out there after the release of a certain sparkly vampire novel that glutted the market with second rate storytelling – but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown delivers a high calibre read.

Many of the characters surprised me, as in fact, did Tana herself. It was a personal story and narrative, and not one of those ‘chosen one here to save the world from some great apocalypse.’ Tana is raw and gritty from the get-go, following her gut instincts whether it put her at physical risk or not. You get to experience her journey as the goal posts keep moving and she gains more and more confidence over her choices. She possesses an understated beauty in her strength.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHalf of the cast were not all they seemed to be and deviated between light and dark, good and bad – you won’t find any two dimensional characters here… and that would be difficult anyway with the fascination Tana’s world has with vampires (true or contextual). And the whole novel jumps that line continuously, between actual and constructed images of the Children of the Night and Coldtowns. The true vampire mythology lurks somewhere in the shadows where you can only get glimpses when you get too close. Buy by then it’s too late. You’re someone’s dinner.

The tone is deliciously dark, without being bleak or horrific, you still get a young adult feel and irony throughout, which I have to praise Holy Black for – it was such a unique experience for me.

Although this was a little of a staggered read – I feel if the writing were tightened up to remove superfluous exposition, the pace and tension could’ve been elevated to make this a truly outstanding read. I would say the overall plot was predictable(ish), but there were many nuances that came out of nowhere. There are so many elements that make this a great novel, but it fell a little short for me with the pace and writing style.

It is something I’d recommend, but only to those who like a more morbid tone, a touch of horror and vampire enthusiasts alike.

Overall feeling: Fun/disturbing

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.