If you like to read stories about Faeries/The Fey, you need to read Holly Black. She’s the queen of faeriebooks. I previously read the five books of The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Black and artist Tony DiTerlizzi. If you haven’t yet read these, go check them out. The story and the artwork are very cool. So when I stumbled upon The Darkest Part of the Forest, I had to read it. It’s a standalone Young Adult, just what I like to read.
The Plot of the Forest
As ever, let’s turn to our friends at Goodreads for the plot outline.
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?
The Darkest Part of the Book
For me, that was the flatness of the main characters. While Hazel, Ben and Jack are all three lovable and have their own tone of voice, there is hardly any growth during the story. Most of the growth takes place in flashbacks but not during the main plot. They all stay quite the same and since this is a YA, I expected a bit more character growth and some YA problems. Those weren’t there. So that was a big negative for me.
That said, I applaud the diversity. There are people of colour, a gay main character and a girl-knight. And all of this is mentioned just as it should be: like it’s not a big deal at all. This is just what these people are. Hazel gets the most attention in the book, most of the story is written from her point of view. And young female readers (or a tad older, like me…) can love everything about her. She is self dependent, strong, a fighter and a tough cookie.
Holly Black’s Faerieworld
You can tell Holly Black knows her way around the Fey. There are so many different kinds in this book, without being overwhelming. Black knows all the right terms (such as Seelie/Unseelie Court) and has all the right creatures in the right places. A changeling even is one of the main characters. Having read both The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Darkest Part of the Forest, I really want to read more by this cool author. I’m going to pick up the Modern Faerie Tales series soon, and I have White Cat already lying on my bookshelves. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown has also spiked my interest.
At the end of the book, there’s a Q&A with Holly Black and she answers the question if the Fey are here favorite mythical beings:
They are my favourite supernatural creature type, I guess – there are so many different species of faeries that they allow for so many different kinds of stories. What I love most about faeries, though, is the very reason I could never be one; they’re not human. Vampires and werewolves were human; faeries never were. Faeries have a different way of looking at the world, a different moral code. They should be, I think, a little alien and a little unnerving.
Should you read The Darkest Part of the Forest?
There are better urban fantasy Young Adult books around. But as a faerie tale with Young Adults in the lead, this is a good book. It’s well written, it’s a fun story and it’s diverse. Besides that, this is a great book to delve yourself deeper into the world of the Fey and the world(s) of Holly Black. And it’s a stand alone so you won’t need to read 5 more books. So give it a go, you’ll probably like it. Check out the book trailer if you need more convincing: