Book Reviews

Review: “Valiant,” Holly Black

August 24, 2016
Review: “Valiant,” Holly BlackValiantby Holly Black
Series: Modern Faerie Tales #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on July, 2005
Genres: Faeries, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 320
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

When seventeen-year-old Valerie Russell runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system.

But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-colored powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there's Luis's brother, timid and sensitive Dave, who makes the mistake of letting Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet.

When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been dealing, Val finds herself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honorable. And as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between her affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.

After re-reading Holly Black’s debut YA novel, Tithe, I was rendered a little disappointed. I am glad to say that although Valiant still rubbed me the wrong way in a lot of aspects, the story and plot itself seemed to have a lot more structure this time around.

 “As Val jumped down onto the litter-strewn concrete after them, she thought how insane it was to follow two people she didn’t know into the bowels of the subway, but instead of being afraid, she felt glad. She would make all her own decisions now, even if they were ruinous ones.”

Like Tithe, Valiant has (in my opinion) an extremely unlikable character as the lead. Valerie is a lot of nothingness, really. She is easily swayed by others, pressured and makes terrible decisions. There wasn’t a lot of room to fall in love with Valerie.

Valiant is extremely dark and harrowing – brace yourself. Don’t think of this one as simply a gritty urban fantasy. Instead, be prepared for more of a story about living on the streets of New York in deplorable conditions with deplorable people. Although a lot ‘centres’ around the existence of faeries, I felt that more of the focus of this one was on Val trying to navigate living on the streets.

A lot of things didn’t sit well with me in Valiant. There’s animal cruelty (I’m still not over this, despite it being a short scene), drug addiction, violence, sex, etc. While all these things can really add to a story and make it memorable, or make someone uncomfortable, all it really did in Valiant was make me realise just how unlikeable all these characters were.

 “It demeans you to cover rotten meat with honey. I know what I am. What would you want with a monster?”  – Ravus

The only character I relatively liked was Ravus, the troll. I think Ravus could have been developed a bit more, but what we did find out about him I really enjoyed. He seemed the most ‘sane’ of the characters and I was a little disappointed that he fell for Val. Val kind of redeemed herself by finally grabbing some guts and self-worth, but I was pretty ‘eh’ about their relationship all things considering.

Valiant is more of a ‘new story set in the same world’ rather than a sequel to Tithe, but we did get to see a cameo scene of Roiben and Kaye. There was also a bit of mentioning of the events from the first book, but I wouldn’t say you had to read Tithe before Valiant, etc. The two pretty much stand alone.

 “Dead or not, I have come for his heart and I will have it.” – Val

In terms of story structure, Valiant was a lot more put together. It read easily with a good pace. The only thing really detracting from this book was my complete loathing for 99% of the characters. Dark and edge, in this case, does not automatically mean a character is ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’. Lolli, Dave, Luis and Val were just terrible people.

I am looking forward to reading Ironside, however. I never got up to book three on my first read through of this series, so it should be something new and exciting for me.

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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