Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest (Black)

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AUTHOR: Holly Black
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown
PUBLICATION DATE: January 13, 2015
ISBN: 9780316213073
PAGES: 336
SOURCE: Edelweiss
GENRE: fantasy
GIVE IT TO: HS
SUMMARY: Hazel and Ben are siblings who live in Fairfold, a town on the edge of a dark and beautiful forest. In Fairfold, humans and fae live side-by-side and dangerous magic is very much a part of life. Year after year, tourists gather to see the sleeping horned boy resting in the glass coffin in the woods. He's slumbered in his glass prison for generations...until one day, he wakes up.

IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: rich wedding cake with multiple tiers and a thousand buttercream roses--This is storytelling artistry at its finest. Every single word is meaningful; every detail richly imagined. Savor. Every. Bite.

REVIEW: I knew from the second page of this book that it was 5-star material. I've read two other Holly Black books (Doll Bones and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown) with mixed results, but this book is so beautiful that I can feel my eyes tearing up just thinking about it. I have waited to write this review because I wanted to think about it for a few days first. In truth, I don't think anything I write today will do justice to the beauty that is The Darkest Part of the Forest. But I'm going to try...

Let's start with the setting. We have a dark, enchanted forest that teems with inhuman creatures that are neither bad nor good. That they kill and eat tourists and occasionally locals is just a part of what they are. While fascinating, they are dangerous and to be respected--or better yet, avoided--as much as possible. And in the middle of it all is an unbreakable glass coffin housing a sleeping beauty, a horned boy dressed in finely tailored clothes who has slept for as long as anyone can remember. Tourists gape at him. Locals throw parties around him. Teens dance on his glass coffin. And by the light of the moon, Hazel and her brother Ben tell him their stories, their secrets.

Are you sold yet?

Now on to the characters. There are lots of them, but the story mostly centers on Hazel and her brother Ben. Both harbor secrets, which they whisper to the sleeping horned boy in the woods. Hazel is confident and fearless; Ben, both gifted and cursed. The horned boy is also a major character, as well as Ben's best friend who also happens to be a changeling raised by humans from infancy.

Need more? How about...

The plot. It has it all: action, mystery, swords, romance, murder, love, hate, dysfunctional families, high school drama, dead tourists, hasty promises, self-sacrifice...I didn't put this book down at all, finishing it in one sitting. I relished every single page, and at this moment (reviewing in late-May 2014), it is easily my favorite book of 2014. I have talked this up at school, with my husband, my colleagues, and pretty much anyone who will listen. It's not out for 7 more months, but mark my word, this will be a huge hit.

THE BOTTOM LINE: READ IT. Watch for it on best-of lists for 2015.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I am so getting this book. Multiple copies.

READALIKES: The Iron Fey series (Kagawa); Tithe (Black); Fablehaven series (Mull)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: F-bomb occurs 3 times; nothing else though
  • Sexuality: kissing, some horizontal
  • Violence: fairytale violence--water hag eats someone's torso, stories of dead or missing tourists
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
  • Other: Hazel's brother Ben is gay
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