The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Genre: Magical Realism, Faerie
Published by: Indigo
I have previously disliked Holly Black’s work. I haven’t been impressed by the Magisterium series she’s been co-writing with Cassandra Clare, and Maddie didn’t enjoy The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I read Tithe in 2012 and absolutely hated it, but not after reading Black’s latest faerie story, I think it’s about time I gave it a second chance. The Darkest Part of the Forest is almost like a gender-bend faerie version of Snow White. It starts with a horned boy in a glass coffin that no one’s been able to open. The coffins sits in the middle of the forest where teens regularly go to party. Hazel and her brother Ben are inextricably linked with the faerie world, and in their youth were obsessed with their prince in the coffin; they adored playing knights and hunting evil faeries. From the first page I was hooked.
The first part is like a lucid dream. It’s so beautiful. The way the town and the people in it is described is so well blended into the narrative, it really helps with the world building. There’s something mystical about the writing, but it’s got quirks of humour too. Things get a lot more serious when the main conflict reveals itself. The horned prince’s coffin is broken, townsfolk are dying and Hazel and Ben want to get to the bottom of the mystery.
It’s hard to describe why I loved this book so much and I think that’s partly down to the fact that SO much happens. The main story arc is peppered with reveals about Hazel and Ben’s past and every single one is a game changer. Hazel, especially, has a special connection with the fae, and the lengths she goes to help her brother are seriously amazing.
In terms of world building, The Darkest Part of the Forest is fabulous. Unlike Richelle Mead’s standalone fantasy, Soundless, Holly Black manages to create a full world in under 400 page. I had no unanswered questions. I guess I could contribute that to the fact that I’ve read quite a bit of faerie fiction before, so I had no problem visualising the world. But also, credit where credit is due! The writing does its job!
Seriously, I’ve gotten so used to writing negative or so-so reviews that I’m struggling with how to express my love for this book so much. So I’ll do what we usually do and write a list of all the things to love in this book:
- Hazel – she’s a badass, is super protective and doesn’t leap to making decisions. She’s also cunning and intelligent, the two things you need to be to make it through Faeryland.
- Ben – was ‘gifted/cursed’ with a powerful musical ability as a baby and he’s learning how to control it. You’ll find his name under ‘cinnamon roll’ in the dictionary.
- Severin – the horned price. Much like Kieran from Lady Midnight and Alucard from A Gathering of Shadows this guy had my heart racing. He and his love interest very easily make it to my OTP list.
- Jack – an inconspicuous name for a very conspicuous boy. Jack is a faery changeling and Hazel is sort of in love with him. I say sort of because it’s complicated… He’s misunderstood by the town and everyone is quick to turn against him when things start to go wrong. He makes his choices based on there greater good.
- Basically – STRONG CHARACTERS
- Faeryland – so well constructed. I love how this book is a blend of a Gravity Fall-esque contemporary town and a high fantasy magical kingdom. If you didn’t think those things mixed well, then you are mistaken.
- Humour – ‘Bullshit fake magic fortune walnut’ is the best sentence I’ve ever read and you need no context.
Overall, you’ll probably either love it or hate it based on my observations about Holly Black’s writing. But I would 110% recommend it.