Thursday, April 2, 2015

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

The Darkest Part of the Forest

Author: Holly Black

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Synopsis: 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?
Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

BREAKDOWN: The Darkest Part of the Forest tells the story of a small town called Fairfold where humans and fairies tentatively co-exist. There are rules the people of Fairfold have learned to follow over the years to make sure they stay on the fairies good side—always be polite, always do what they ask you unless it contradicts other rules, don’t thank them, don’t eat their food, don’t sing unless you really can, never dance, never brag, and most importantly, don’t venture into the forest alone, at night. Tourists tend to disappear or end up dead but the people of Fairfold don’t even bat an eye. If a tourist disappears or ends up dead in a ditch, it’s their own doing; they must have broken a rule. In the middle of the forest, is a casket where a horned boy sleeps. It’s whispered he is a fairy prince under a curse but no one really knows where he came from or how he got in the casket. No one has ever been able to wake him. Enter Ben and Hazel who are brother and sister. They have lived in Fairfold their whole lives and they have spent countless hours and nights—like so many in Fairfold—talking to the sleeping horned fairy, telling him their dreams and desires, insecurities and fears, secrets they never want anyone else to know.

Since they were kids, Ben and Hazel have acted as knights, chasing down fairies who do evil and finding missing tourists. Ben has an incredibly beautiful talent of playing music, any instrument he touches, he can master. Hazel is brave and fierce. She can wield a sword and follow tracks. Together, they use their gifts to make sure the fairies in the forest stay in check.

When Ben is accepted into a prestigious school but can't afford going, Hazel does the only thing she can think of, she makes a bargain with the fairies. Something everyone in Fairfold knows NEVER to do. But things don't go according to plan. Ben and Hazel get swept up into a battle that is brewing in Fairfold. A battle that involves the horned boy in the casket, an Alderking who is determined to have his way, a monster hidden in the forest that is attacking Fairfold, and Hazel and Ben may be the only ones who can save the town. 

Review: There are those moments where you start a book and you know in your gut, it’s going to be an EXPERIENCE. The book is going to take you on a journey and by the end of it, you’re going to be left feeling like it was the best adventure of your life. The Darkest Part of the Forest was such a book for me.

The world building is lush and vivid and memorizing and terrifying. Part of me wanted to live in Fairfold. I wanted to be walk through the forest and discover fairies of all kinds and see what they could do. I wanted to sneak off to the casket where the fairy prince slept and tell him all my innermost secrets. The other part of me wanted to run like hell in the other direction. Fairies in Fairfold are NO JOKE. They play for keeps and they love the dark. Once a bargain is struck or a rule is broken, they will come for you. The town of Fairfold was a character all it's own. It took on life, breathing magic into the pages and enfolding you in it's beauty and terror. 

The characters were wonderfully diverse and wonderfully well-built. Hazel was my FAVORITE. She is wild and fierce and bold. Hazel willingly runs into the dark to face evil fairies and save those taken or avenge the ones who have been lost. Although Hazel is strong, she keeps herself VERY guarded. She doesn't let people get close to her, doesn't allow her heart to really open to anyone (outside of her brother Ben but even with him she keeps secrets). Hazel carries the weight of having to be a hero for her family, for her brother, for herself. I liked the mixture of Hazel's strengths and weaknesses. She grows as the story unfolds and learns to connect with her vulnerability and let people see it. She learns to better accept herself. I loved that!

Ben is adorable. He's completely accepting of his sister and never judges her. He has a hopeless romantic soul and a heart opened to anyone. He's easy to get along with, easy to trust and build a friendship with. He has a gift for music that is terrifying and beautiful. Ben is afraid of his musical gift even to the point where he's willing to break his own fingers. He is the dreamer and has a softer heart than Hazel. 

Severin, the horned boy in the casket, is dangerous and lethal and DELICIOUS. Oh goodness, he's a bad boy if there ever was one and he will make your heart go all swoony while making your feet want to run in the opposite direction. There's no denying he's a fairy with a strength and power all his own and he has his own agenda for Fairfold. 

There are some heavy themes addressed in the book: violent scenes, dead bodies, trickery and cruelty, and neglected parenting. Hazel and Ben's parents weren't exactly great parents growing up. They often left the kids unattended, hungry, and to fend for themselves. It's something that helped Ben and Hazel connect more deeply and learn to survive. I thought it was handled with just the right touch. It wasn't overly dramatic or dragged on or setup in a way to pity Hazel and Ben but used as a way to show how Ben and Hazel found a way to not only forge a better life but forgive and build better relationships with their parents.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the Darkest Part of the Forest! It is a book I will more than happily read again and again. It will sit on my To Be Treasured For Life shelf. It was a story I just couldn't stop devouring and I was enthralled from the beginning to end. 

Anyone who is a fan of Holly Black, who loves stories filled with magic and fairies, who loves the fantasy genre will not be disappointed! 

Definitely go grab a copy for yourself!

About the Author

Holly Black is a best-selling author of contemporary fantasy novels for kids, teens, and adults. She is the author of the Modern Faerie Tale series (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside), The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), and The Good Neighbors graphic novels (with Ted Naifeh) The Poison Eaters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction, and The Curse Worker series (White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart). She is also the co-editor of three anthologies, Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier), and Welcome to Bordertown (with Ellen Kushner). Her most recent works are the middle grade novel, Doll Bones, and the dark fantasy stand-alone, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.

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