Book Review #22: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Monday, 2 February 2015
Product details:
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: eBook
Length: 331 pages
Published: 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆
Source: Purchased
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?

So Holly Black is not an author that I haven't come across before, but I have to admit this is her first solo work that I've read even though I own The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelves and have done for some time now. However when I head about her new standalone 'The Darkest Part of the Forest' I admit the concept did initially intrigue me. An elven prince sleeping in a glass coffin in the woods? Did anyone else not immediately think of Snow White? Now as I mentioned I've read other works of Holly Blacks but only when she's shared the narration with another author. I've read The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and I've also read the first volume of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Both to which I enjoyed but I wanted more, so thought I would see if Holly's writing compares in a solo work. So what did I think?

Cover - Guys can we just talk a minute about the cover because holy moly it is so beautiful. If anyone tells me that this cover doesn't project the themes from the book then I'm sorry but you're wrong, it definitely has that creepy factor and this is reflected throughout the entire book. I definitely think however that the US cover is better than the UK cover. The green on the white works so much better than the green on the yellow. To check out the UK cover click here.

Plot -  Right when talking about the plot of the novel I think it's only fair first to discuss the pacing of the novel. At the beginning of the novel and I'm talking about the first two chapters or so, you get thrown a lot of information that you will need as the novel progresses. If you don't understand who half of these teenage characters are now then you will probably get quite confused as the novel goes along, or at least I did when I read it. However once these two chapters or so are over then the novels plot and general pace really pick up and you get pulled into this mysterious adventure of fairies and princes and monsters. It's all very exciting and makes for an exhilarating read - I literally could not put it down once it got going. There is an over-arching plot that runs throughout this novel and it one that is straight forward and easy to understand, but there are also so many subplots that run aside this novel that all get woven together so nicely as the novel progresses. The ending for me was probably one of the best parts, simply because of the way it was all tied off in the end. Going into this novel knowing it was a stand alone, I knew the ending had to be done correctly or it would make me warrant a sequel if it felt incomplete. Did it? Not at all, the story was tied off so perfectly and in a way that really adds to that creepy Grimm's Brother fairytale, possibly with a happier ending than most. 

Characters -  Right, where do we start in terms of characters. Let's start at the beginning with Hazel. Hazel's character is a well developed female protagonist and our narrator through this novel. As a narrator she is reasonably unreliable because we find out crucial information just as soon as Hazel does. Never once in the novel does she with-hold information because half of the time during this novel, all of the crucial information is held with 'night Hazel', a character you will understand if you read the book. At the beginning Hazel is kind of portrayed as a bit of a promiscuous character by the way she goes around flirting but all of this is part of her personality which you do come to love and understand as the novel progresses.  Ben, her brother I thought was a brilliant character. When first hearing about this novel there was mention of a gay character and originally I wondered how Black was going to deliver this to us. I have to say, I haven't read much better of a character. Black wrote this character as a normal person, having normal flaws which I was so appreciative of. It's nice to see a gay character who isn't solely identified under the gay stereotype. This is the way gay characters should be written and it was refreshing to read about one. Another character was our elven prince and he was a wonderful mix of charm and mystery. I really enjoyed his character and the whole back story between him and his sister. Now this novel obviously takes place in a world where fairies exist and if I'm completely honest I haven't really read many fairy books. I know Holly Black has another fairy series and having read this one I might check it out but this one is definitely a good one to start with if you don't think you'd be into the genre. Black portrays her fairy characters as dark and very nature based, as they should be. You can definitely tell that she has done her research with this one.

Writing - I feel that this is definitely a topic to be discussed because Holly Black's writing style was absolutely phenomenal. She has a wonderfully lyrical way with her descriptive language that really draws you into the book. With every scene I could literally picture myself looking around and being able to identify every feature of the characters and the world. Those images have stuck with me even after the book has ended, so much so I could probably draw out a map of the town of Fairfold and the forest. Very vidid imagery really is what makes this book and it's all down to the fantastic writing of Holly Black. 

So what did I think of it overall? The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fantastic stand alone from an amazing author. Holly Black presents the reader with a concise mystic fairytale like story with superb atmosphere build up. Definitely one for a recommendation. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I think the only few things that would have pushed this novel to a full 5 stars for me would be that the beginning could have had a little more plot development - I mean don't get me wrong I loved Black's fantastic atmospheric build up but at times the novel just seemed to drag a little bit. I would have also liked a bit more depth to the elven prince's character, he seemed to have so much potential but at times just seemed a bit banal and obscure. I think I would have liked a bit more depth to the monster as well. Yes we got a back story but I think we could have had a little bit more in terms of solving her mystery. Other than that this was a brilliant read for anyone who is looking for that little something different. 

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