Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, YA
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.
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