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

the-darkest-part-of-the-forest

Hazel lives in Fairfold, a small town at the edge of the forest that the Folk call home. Nobody remembers how the horned boy in the glass coffin came to be in the middle of the forest, but he slumbered through the decades, his handsome face never changing. Until Hazel woke him up.

Now strange and dangerous things are happening around Fairfold–more so than normal. Townspeople are being attacked by a tree monster that renders them unconscious with no way to awaken them, the high school is under attack from an unseen force, and the King of the Folk reveals that Hazel is in it all up to her eyeballs. He gives her a deadline to turn over his son, the horned prince, or all of Fairfold will face the consequences. The problem is the horned prince is a nice guy, and his father doesn’t want to welcome him home with open arms, he wants to kill him. And since Hazel’s brother is in love with him, it’s more than a little problematic.

Hazel has to find a way to hide the prince, defeat the king, and save her fellow townsmen before time runs out. With the help of the prince, her brother, and her brother’s best friend–who happens to be a changeling and Hazel’s lifelong crush, Hazel refuses to admit defeat. After all, she’s one of the best knights the Folk have ever known.

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I don’t read a ton of YA. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against it. On the contrary, I will gladly read a compelling story regardless of the age category. It just so happens that I tend to read more adult-targeted books. This one, though, caught my eye.

It twists some old tropes into something that is both familiar and surprising. The characters are all distinctive and unforgettable. The voice is compelling. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this, but the blurb sounded interesting so I download a sample from Amazon. In the first few pages, I knew I had to see where it was going. The plot was barely off the ground, but the voice reeled me in.

There are some things about the story I was less than thrilled with. Any time there is a scene that breaks down to “I know I kissed your sibling, but it’s really you I’m into” or “I’m with you because your sibling won’t look at me twice” I tend to tap out. There are two such points in this story. However, this is a YA story. A high school setting. And since I witnessed this particular storyline play out more than once in my own high school (back when dirt was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth), I can’t argue that it isn’t realistic.

Overall the story was good, the voice was compelling and I don’t regret diving into it. I’m writing this review more than a week after I finished the story, so I’ve come down from the story high and am less attached to it now. That’s my fault. However, it had a flawed but still kick butt heroine, a beautiful male asleep in the glass coffin instead of a princess, and changeling who would have had me drawing hearts in a notebook during homeroom, so if you like fantasy, ya, or would like to read a story that doesn’t pretend the lgbtq+ community doesn’t exist in small towns in the middle of nowhere this could be what you’re looking for.

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