By: Larissa | January 28, 2015 | (60) Comments

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly BlackThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Bought it
Goodreads | Purchase

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?

*this review ended up quite lengthy, so I ended up bolding important points for those who don’t want/don’t have the time to read everything This is my first read by Holly Black, and I’m most certainly impressed. She has an undeniable and unique writing style. It’s one that fits the magical and wondrous, yet, creepy and dark world of this novel to a tee. With her words she’ll hook you, alike how a will-o’-the-wisp lures entranced and unsuspecting humans from safe paths. …..Okay, so clearly I’m now also picking up on the dichotomy of beauty and darkness that surrounds Black’s writing and this novel. It’s inevitable I suppose. The strongest part in The Darkest Part of The Forest  besides Black’s writing is most certainly the world she weaves with her words. You get introduced to all sort of different types of fae and related sorts of creatures.

Yeah I know what you’re thinking. However it’s less of these vibes and something more like…

THIS. Dark, ancient and powerful fae magic. I find this image sums up The Darkest Part of the Forest quite well.

So clearly The Darkest Part of The Forest  features less light magic and something much more gritty. Think redcaps, goblins, dancing until your feet bleed under the moonlight, changelings, horned boys in coffins and the like. Black takes this world an unconventional route  however. She intersects it with the town of Fairfold, a small town in our modern day age. I believe the inclusion of our modern day technology and the time period was intersected and contrasted beautifully with the old and powerful nature of the fae. The juxtaposition of the aforementioned was interwoven throughout the story in a way that felt natural (as natural as the supernatural and norm meeting can be) and realistic. I think the decision of setting Fairfold in our modern day time period was a smart and beneficial one. It allowed for me to be more quickly immersed in the story (I feel like that if this story was in the past there would be an overabundance of information required and it would lead to info dumping) for and heightened the sense of urgency regarding the main characters’ plights. Speaking of our characters, The Darkest Part of The Forest introduces you to several- some of which I preferred over others. The main character in this story would be Hazel. She narrates the majority of the story (with only a few chapters narrated by her brother) and of course plays the biggest role in The Darkest Part of The Forest.  She’s characterized as a badass warrior type who is unflinchingly brave and reckless in some situations. Naturally she has red hair because that is a badass quality that any special MC in young adult must have. Hah. Joking aside, I really could admire  Hazel as a main character and her narration was easy to go along with. However, the issue arose when by the end of the novel I realized that despite admiring Hazel, I didn’t have a deep emotional connection with her character. I felt a bit distanced from her, even with the flashbacks included. There were other times when I would honestly be annoyed her trope like characterization and would even call her selfish. I would say she overcomes this though-  both through a plot twist in the story (which I didn’t see coming!), along with development she reaches by the end of the story. Hazel’s brother Ben also plays a large role in the story, even narrating a few chapters. Even with these few rare snippets into his mind, I found myself enjoying his character more so than Hazel. I would have liked to see more of him, but what I did see was quite enjoyable. He’s definitely multifaceted and with flashbacks we learn a lot about Ben and how his past shapes him. More importantly, we see him develop on from that and move forward.  The brother and sister dynamic Hazel and Ben have throughout the novel is realistic and powerful.  It’s not overly common in YA for their to be a relationship other than that of the main character and their love interest, so seeing an familial one being so front and center was wonderful. I think it was this relationship between Hazel and Jack that was the best developed and my favorite by far in The Darkest Part of The Forest. Ben also happens to be gay, something I wasn’t excepting from this novel. It’s great that this diversity was present in the novel. However, I don’t believe Ben and his love interest were explored to their full potential. In fact, his relationship was poorly developed and definitely of the insta-love variety. As much as I adore the representation, Ben and his love interest’s relationship didn’t feel organic nor could I connect to it. The love interest also fell flat for me, as much of his characterization was build up and nothing more. This felt flat and I found myself disappointed in his character. With that much mystery and suspense surrounding the love interest, I feel like there could have been much more done with him. Jack was Hazel’s love interest and I found him a lot better developed than the aforementioned love interest. Jack is a changeling (kept by the human parents) and the information we get about his life and human counterpart was fascinating. I found myself constantly interested in his characterization and how Jack represented that little bit of ‘grey’ in the story. Fae but with human loyalties and loves. Not black and white. The ambiguity brought a new level to the story and definitely had an impact on the plot and his relationship with Hazel. I found Jack’s relationship with Hazel to be a lot better developed, just because of their shared past and interactions over the course of the novel. I did personally enjoy it and found it cute. That cuteness aside though, I honestly think this story would have worked without the romantic relationships. It would have only reinforced the familial relationship that Hazel and Ben had. More attention could have been paid to these side characters, who I believe deserved to get more time to shine but were overshadowed by the main characters and the romance sub-plots. I really did love the ending. It wrapped up nicely, but there was still an openness to it. The ending felt bittersweet and really did support the themes of the novel. It made me really wish there was more to the series, just because I would love to see more of the world Black has masterfully created. Despite my issues with some of the characters and the romantic sub-plots, I quite enjoyed this one and found myself flipping pages madly.  Overall, I would recommend The Darkest Part of The Forest to those looking for a modern and darkly intoxicating take on faeries, and for those who want to see a brilliantly done sibling relationship highlighted.

3.5 Stars
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Larissa was born and still is living in the land of ice, snow and maple syrup. She's 18 years old and really has no idea what to do with her life lately. Larissa's plans are constantly changing--though there’s one thing has remained constant throughout her seventeen years, and that’s reading. It takes her to another world and puts her into impossible situations and that’s why she loves it so much.

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60 Responses to Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

  1. Hilary says:

    This brother and sister relationship brings me back to when I read I’ll Give You the Sun. Putting that aside, I also agree with you on the recent turnaround in some YA novels that gives more focus on family than romance which I think is refreshing. In fact, a lot of your criticisms REALLY threw me back to IGYTS including Ben’s relationship with his love interest.

    I also have never read a Holly Black book but your review on this book has made me curious enough to go find it in the library.

    Wonderful review, Larissa!
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    • Larissa says:

      I actually haven’t read I’ll Give You the Sun yet! Will definitely have to check it out if it features a strong brother sister relationship (: it’s interesting how you’re finding these parallels between the books!

      I really do think you should give her a try, I really want to read other books from her as well. There’s no doubt that she’s a great writer.

      Thanks girl <33

  2. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Holly so far, so I’ll read this one too. Hope to get to it soon! 🙂 Great review Larissa!
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  3. I won a pre-order of this book, but promised it to my blogging buddy for her birthday because she loves Holly Black, and I had never read any of her books. In the meantime, I keep seeing all of these wonderful reviews, and started wanting to read it. She ended up getting a review eARC and reading it, so she is going to let me read the hardcover before I send it to her.:D From your review it sounds like I am going to love it.
    La La in the Library recently posted…THE SUNDAY POST #FOURMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Awwww you’re a great blogging friend c: This was my first book by Black and I definitely would recommend her, the writing style is brill. I hope you end up loving it girl <33

  4. Diamond says:

    Larissa, I’m so glad you liked this one! I haven’t read it (yet) but it’s on my wishlist 😀 I do love Holly Black! I read a few of her books last year and she was the one great author I discovered and decided to read as many of her books as I could!
    I don’t know if u plan to read more of her books but I really loved Doll Bones (listened to it on audio) and her short story in Rag & Bone was awesome! I didn’t finish Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but plan to. I really loved her collaboration on The Iron Trial. I know Mel didn’t care for it but I LOVED it. 😀
    Great review!! Thanks for bolding — since I haven’t read it yet i didn’t want to read too many details bc I like to be surprised lol.
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    • Larissa says:

      Awwww I hope you get to it soon girl! (: I really do need to read more books by Black, I hear White Cat is completely wonderful and it seems right up my alley. I’ll also take a look at Doll Bones c:

      Thanks girl <33 and yeah, figured bolding would be a good idea for this one haha.

  5. I’m all for diversity, but it’s kind of a cop out when it subscribes to a trope, particularly insta-love. At least the main character’s love interest was developed. I’m glad Hazel had some character development throughout the book, and the blend of genres here sounds like it was done really well. Excellent review Larissa!
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, I feel like the character being gay himself is great. Just the romance made my happiness dampen. I’ve read some brilliant romances that were LGBTQ so I know there’s some real potential. I think Hazel’s development allowed for me to appreciate her character more. Thank you Jeann <33

  6. JennRenee says:

    This sounds like quite an interesting read. I have a hard time with books I can’t connect to the characters though and it does sound like it didn’t really need th romance.
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  7. Hmm! I’m not sure about this book yet. I’ve wanted to try a Holly Black book for sure. I’m glad that there’s diversity but it’s a shame that it’s not handled too well. I’ll have to think about this one.
    Lovely review, Larissa!
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  8. Cynthia says:

    I just finished this book yesterday. I absolutely loved it! I had never read a book about faeries, but I have read a Holly Black book before. I really love her stuff.
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  9. I am reading strong reviews for this one and I have not yet read a book by Holly Black. I like the sound of the sibling relationship and I love the focus on fairies and all that. I appreciate your through insight, I think I will just have to take a chance and read this myself.
    Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings recently posted…Review: The Magician’s Lie by Greer MacallisterMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Read one! Hahaha, I definitely want to try more from Black as I love her writing style. The fairies were definitely well done, as was that brother sister relationship. Both were easily the strengths of the novel. Thanks girl, and I hope you do read this one and enjoy it

  10. I’m usually not one for dark paranormal books, but I am always up for a captivating writing style. Also, I really love when YA books focus on family and friends, because I feel that rarely happens in YA. Sometimes I think authors put romance in some books that don’t need them just because that’s what’s all over the YA market. 🙁
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  11. Larissa says:

    Oooooo. I think it’s a 50/50 on whether this one is up for you then, as it’s certainly a dark paranormal. And yeah, it’s almost like a requirement unfortunately. Like, in order to be a YA novel you need romance. Ugh.

  12. I really like the way Holly Black writes faerie stories, so I’m definitely going to read this one.

  13. I never understand why someone would have thought this was a bright happy fairy tale. However, I suppose if they never read Black then perhaps I could see it. Glad you enjoyed it and that the problems didn’t get in the way of the enjoyment. I want to read the book even more now.
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  14. Missie says:

    I am glad you liked this one and got through it – I could not get through it, it just seemed so weird and I like weird!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings
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  15. Melanie says:

    I am completely torn on whether I should read this one or not gah! On one hand I’m loving the idea of a strong sibling relationship but bluuuurgh for dodgy romances that don’t need to be there at all 🙁 Fantastic review, hun <33

  16. Salwa M. says:

    I haven’t read any book by Holly Black yet but I’m sure I’ll enjoy her works, especially this one. This is something I would read and really enjoy. I have a soft spot for familial love so 😉 I actually have an ebook of her book The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Have you read that too?
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    • Larissa says:

      Awww then I hope you give this one a go, it seems like this one ticks all of the right boxes for you. And no, I’ve never read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I’ve heard mixed things on that one so I’ve been waiting for more reviews before i decide to read it haha

  17. Lexa Cain says:

    You mentioned so many interesting things in your review and Black’s world-building seems so intricate that I’m surprised the book’s only 336 pages. Thanks for the review! 🙂
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, I think with Black’s words the world just comes to life. It really is quite amazing that she can do that with that little amount of pages. Thank you for the lovely comment <33

  18. I agree so much with what you’ve said! I admit, I totally thought of the first picture of fairies when I started the book, but you absolutely nailed it with the second collection of images- that is exactly how the faeries seemed in my mind!

    I also enjoyed this book, I thought it was so easy to keep reading, and the writing was gorgeous. But the same things detracted from the book for me too: I just couldn’t quite relate to Hazel, and YES to Ben’s relationship not being developed enough! I left that out of my review, because I didn’t quite know how to phrase it without spoilers, but yes! It almost felt like an afterthought instead of feeling intrinsic. Fantastic review, I couldn’t agree more!
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    • Larissa says:

      Oooooo it sounds like we are book review twins haha <33 Haha I saw that gif of the dancing fairies on tumblr and knew I had to work them into the review somehow.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall too! I definitely agree that it was unputdownable (this is so a word shhh) and that the writing was seriously brilliant. But yeah wow, seems like we had the exact same issues. The relationships between the characters really did fall flat for me, minus the brother sister one between Ben and Hazel of course.

      Thank you <33

  19. I BASICALLY ADORE THIS BOOK A MILLION PERCENT. I have this real thing with loving all of Holly Black’s books, atm. I think I’ve rated them all 5-stars. 0.0 She is a writing queen. I love the way she makes words give such clear pictures. *swoons*
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    • Larissa says:

      I KNOW GIRL <33 it's your review that convinced me to give this one a try. I really should try more of Black's books, her writing is undeniably beautiful.

  20. Alreem says:

    Great review, I have never read anything by this author so this will be the first book I read by her ,, I heared the that her other book the Coldest Girl in Coldtown is so good as well ,, anyway I’m waiting for my copy to arrive so I can read it by Feb. 🙂
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  21. Pili says:

    I haven’t read anything by Holly Black yet and this one sounds like something that I might like, even if the Fae stories aren’t always by cup of tea. I’m glad to hear that diversity was included in the book, since we need to turn diverse characters in books into the norm!
    Great review Larissa!
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    • Larissa says:

      Ooooo yeah, I’m a fan of the fae so this one really worked for me in that area. And I agree diverse character should definitely be a thing we don’t have to point out. It should just be included and excepted.

      Thank you <33

  22. Jasprit says:

    I’ve been seeing this book around quite a lot lately and to be honest whereas I wasn’t as interested in this book before, now I’m quite eager to give this one ago. Also this has happened to me recently too where I wasn’t able to connect with the MC, but I was still able to enjoy the book overall. I’m glad that this was the case with you too Larissa. Gorgeous review!
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    • Larissa says:

      I do hope you give it a try. It’s really a case by case basis with characters I find, some people have been able connect with Hazel. However I just wasn’t them haha, she just seemed that typical badass trope of a character to me and had zero vulnerability. She did undergo a lot of personal character development though, which was definitely nice to see.

      Thanks girl <33

  23. Tanja says:

    You have no idea how happy I’m that you got to read something written by Holly. I have read her other book and like you I fell in love with writing. I have seen this one around but still haven’t got time to read it. I love when we get fae world combined with the modern one. This sounds like something I will love. Amazing review, girl 🙂
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    • Larissa says:

      I’ll definitely be checking out more of her works, Black’s writing is just gorgeous. I have my eyes on White Cat haha. I believe you’ll definitely enjoy this one, it seems to tick all of the right boxes for you.

      Thanks Tanja <33

  24. Her books are always hit or miss for me. Some I loved, and some I barely finished. I’m a bit scared of the fae so I don’t know how well this would work, but I’ll certainly try.
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  25. I need to read a book by Holly Black. this sounds really good though. I’m glad there is a nice brother/sister bond.
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  26. I’ve wanted to read this for ages, but hearing there’s such a focus on romance is a little disappointing. I mean, I’m still excited, but it’s a shame that aspect was pushed so much.

    Still, at least the ending was great and didn’t leave too much of a cliffhanger or just rush to tie things up!
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah honestly, it was quite unnecessary. I could honestly see the book working without it. Sometimes I swear romance has just become one of those things that have to be included in a YA novel to be considered part of the genre.

      Considering this one was a standalone, it did need that conclusive ending and I’m glad Black gave us that yet still left a few questions.

  27. Naban says:

    I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author previously, and have no idea what to expect in this. On one hand, the premise sounds interesting and the lovely writing sounds like it would be my cup of tea, but the heavy romance facet and the problems you’ve had connecting with the characters on the other scale doesn’t sound all that pleasant. I think I’ll read it sometime and see for myself anyway! And great review. <3
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah there’s really pros and cons of this one, I suppose the deciding factor would be the weight you place on both. I think reading is certainly dictated by the individual’s perception though, so yeah! Give this one a try.

      Thank you <33

  28. Kirsty-Marie says:

    This was my first Holly Black too, and I adored it, which actually surprised me because I’m not that all into Fae stories, though I am trying to read them more instead of avoiding them. I liked the characters but yeah, I get it, I didn’t feel like I had any emotional attachment to Hazel either, I was so sucked in by the writing so it didn’t bother me that much. Totally agree with Ben’s relationship, so happy with how that was represented but it did seem a little…off. I mean, maybe if they’d had more interaction with each other or was there longer? Anyway, great review! 😀
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  29. Ah, I need to read this book so badly! *flails*
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  30. Lyn Kaye says:

    That was one of my biggest issues with the book – it really did not establish an emotional connection. I loved the story, and the concepts were just awesome! But as far as the characters went, I never really felt anything, and a lot of the appeal was lost on me.
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  31. I’ve read and hated so many fae books that I’ve grown wary of any novels that feature them. This one does seem to be putting them in a different and intriguing light. Dark faes are usually something I only see on fantasy games, so I may be interested in seeing how that plays out… That’s a real shame about Ben’s love interest, though. We rarely get diverse characters in the books we read, and it feels like it was a wasted potential not to have put a more genuine and meaningful relationship for him. Sadness ><
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  32. Valerie says:

    AWESOME REVIEW LARISSA 😀 <3

    The world building sounds really awesome though, I feel like I would read this book just for all the dark fae and all the other creepy magic things. Honestly, I haven't read another Holly Black book since middle grade (I was scarred), but I think I'm ready to try another one of her books.

    That kind of sucks about the characters. I feel like that happens to a lot of fantasy books/science fiction books, just because more time is spent on the world building and the plot, that you just don't end up connecting to the characters. ah well. AT LEAST YOU LIKED IT 😀 😀
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  33. I’ve only read a short stories written by Holly Black and am looking forward to reading a novel of hers. I have this on my shelf and plan on reading it this month. I’m really looking forward to it and have high expectations of it. Great review. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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  34. Shelumiel says:

    This was my first Holly Black title as well. I just finished the book last night and gaaah. I’m completely won over! You were SO right to point out that Black’s proses are beautiful and the representation of the relationship between Hazel and Ben excellent. I, too, wanted to see more of Ben! (PS. I ship Percabeth hard too!)
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