Review of THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by HOLLY BLACK
(based on a review copy)
I love Holly Black’s work. I find her premises unique and imaginative, her protagonists complex and engaging, and her tone delightfully sinister. Holly Black, it seems, loves fairies. THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST harkens back to a much earlier series I read by her called TITHE. In many ways, this latest novel feels like TITHE’s older sibling (yes, even though it was “born” second). I particularly enjoy Black’s classic mysterious and creepy take on the fey.
Hazel and her older brother Ben live in an unusual town. The manmade structures live close to fey inhabited forests. The humans and the fey live together, well, semi-peacefully. The fey mostly leave the town residents alone; however, tourists and those who can’t mind their own business are fair game. Hazel and Ben’s unique childhood included hunting down cruel fey and fantasizing about the fairy prince trapped in an endless sleep in a glass coffin in the woods. When they find the coffin empty and the fey start behaving more unpredictably violent, Hazel and Ben take it upon themselves to look into everything.
Black’s lead characters usually win me over with flawed, original personalities. However, I found Hazel a combination of two tropes: Mary Sue and Crazy Manic Pixie Girl. Everyone wants her, wants to be her, or wants to kill her and she’s kind of a hot mess, emphasis on the hot. While I liked her brother Ben, Hazel didn’t have enough depth or distinguishing characteristics for me beyond the standard trope elements I mentioned.
As implied by the title, this tale will take you back to old interpretations of fairies laid against a more modern backdrop. A fun read for any fey fan.