Book Reviews

Review: “The Darkest Part of the Forest,” Holly Black

September 5, 2015
Review: “The Darkest Part of the Forest,” Holly BlackThe Darkest Part of the Forestby Holly Black
Series: Standalone
Published by Little Brown on January, 2015
Genres: Faeries, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 324
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

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?

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I thought I would. Holly Black’s books are always quite hit and miss for me; even though I love her as an author, I feel she has two distinct styles when it comes to YA. There’s the style she has when she writes The Curseworkers series (WHICH I LOVE) and the style she has when she writes faeries. There were great aspects to The Darkest Part of the Forest, but I felt that it quite didn’t live up to my expectations.

“Once, there was a girl who vowed she would save everyone in the world, but forgot herself.”

I consider Holly Black one of the ‘queens’ of fae in YA, even if I don’t particularly LOVELOVE her fae books. They are always incredibly creepy, packed with folklore and diversity and gorgeous in their descriptions. The problem I often have with her fae books? Her leading characters. I don’t know, for some reason they always rub me the wrong way and I can never relate to them or even feel sorry for them.

Hazel in The Darkest Part of the Forest was another example for this. I wanted to love Hazel, I really did; she was brave and just and… a little bit boring. Although I knew Hazel’s story, at no point did I ever feel all that attached to her. It was as if I was constantly waiting for her to be amazing, and it never happened. I didn’t feel as if she had all that much personality.

Sure, she had crushes on guys… but there was never that ‘aHA!’ moment when it came to her and Jack, the changeling BFF of her brother Ben. Their relationship was a weird one for me. It was always kind of in the background, but as soon as it happened, it didn’t feel right.

Hazel’s brother, Ben, was another weird part of the book for me. Like Hazel, I never really warmed up to him even though the book gave me every reason to. Their relationship as brother and sister was cool to read about, but I found it hard to imagine how close they were given how much of their lives they’d each kept secret from one another.

“You and your sister are very dear to each other. To show your regard, you give each other lovely bouquets of lies.”

I had been wanting the horned boy, Severin, to be this AMAZEBALLS character who totally blew me away. I mean, the premise of him being in the middle of the forest in a glass coffin was absolutely fantastic. It’s what made me want to pick up this book and read it. As soon as Severin was ‘awake’, however, he was a little dull and bland. He didn’t steal the scenes like I wanted him to. All this build up to find out what he was like and…. nothing. His ‘picking’ Ben in the end also felt a little odd to me. I don’t think he should have ended up with Hazel OR Ben after meeting him.

It was an enjoyable and quick read, sure. I managed to get this one read in the better part of a day. It was fast-paced and kept you turning the pages. However, I felt that the ending was kind of rushed. I was waiting for a ‘big bad fight’, an epic summit of action, and we didn’t really get much in the way of that.

I had no idea that Hazel herself was the one leaving messages, so that was a nice surprise, as well as her seven year sentence with the Alderking(?) and how it was served. There were some great elements in this book and the town itself was AMAZING, but there wasn’t really a point that I put the book down and thought ‘I LOVE YOU, BOOK.’

“Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill monsters and feel quite proud of themselves.”

I wish there had been more to love about Hazel and Ben. I wish that Severin had been more awesome than he was. I wish the ending was more suspenseful. I wish that we had seen more of the wrath of the Fae on the tourists of Fairfold.

It was an alright book, but it could have been so much better. There was so much potential here and it was just within our grasp! If you’re a fan of Holly Black’s fae books, rejoice – here is another!!! It’s a really quick read, too, so if you’re as hooked by the premise as I was, give it a go!

About Holly Black

Holly Black spent her early years in a decaying Victorian mansion where her mother fed her a steady diet of ghost stories and faerie tales. An avid collector of rare folklore volumes, spooky dolls, and crazy hats, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.

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