Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

"There’s a monster in our wood. She’ll get you if you’re not good. Drag you under leaves and sticks. Punish you for all your tricks. A nest of hair and gnawed bone. You are never, ever coming…"

Hazel and her brother, Ben live in Fairfold, a US town famed for the fairies who live in the nearby forest, in particular the horned boy who has slept in his glass coffin for as long as anyone in Fairfold can remember. Hazel and Ben dream of the day the fairy prince will wake, each imagining him falling in love with them. But not all fairies are whimsical or beautiful. There is a monster lurking at the heart of the forest and Hazel has vowed to destroy it. The trouble is she is living on borrowed time.

I chose this book because it was selected as book of the month in Marianne de Pierres' book club, but I didn't actually finish it in time, as I rarely do. At least I had it read before I went to a panel including the author at the Brisbane Writers Festival.

I enjoy fairy stories, especially the ones where the fairies are the old fashioned, scary kind. This book certainly delivered on that score. The fairies were strange, unfathomable to humans and in some cases really creepy. I like the way the though the story is firmly anchored in the present day by details like Doctor Who references, the fairies still seem perfectly plausible in the world of the story.

It was refreshing to read about a positive relationship between a teenaged brother and sister. In a way it was kind of a love story, not about romantic love (though the book contains that too), but Hazel's love for her brother whom she has bonded with in part because of their parents' neglect. It this regard it reminded me a little of George and Shaun in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy. Hazel was an interesting heroine, brave and clever but unsure of herself and her own motives. Unfortunately I didn't feel I got to know Ben much at all. I was fascinated by the character of Jack, the changeling, whose human parents knew he wasn't theirs but wanted to keep him anyway in addition to their own child. Their fierce, protective love contrasts strongly with Hazel and Ben's bohemian parents who, in the beginning at least, seem to barely notice their children are alive.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is an exciting young adult novel full of adventure, magic, riddles and mystery with a brave, clever heroine. I can see my daughter, who is keen on stories with female knights like Jane and the Dragon and The Paper Bag Princess, enjoying this in a few years time. I'll definitely be picking up some more books by Holly Black.

Published: ★★ ★ ★ ☆

Rated: January 2015

#YA #youngadult #fiction

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