The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
|The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black|
|Reviewer: Sophie Diamond|
|Summary: In the darkest part of the forest lies a terrifying monster, a monster that was more myth than magic until now. A rollocking story of evil faeries and teenage angst in modern day USA. A fairytale more Grimm than Disney.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 323||Date: February 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
|ISBN: 978 1 78062 173 9|
The people of Fairfold know not to meddle with the faerie folk, they wear their socks inside out, fill their pockets with oatmeal and they stay out of the forest on the full moon. Tourists don’t know these things. People travel far and wide to see the faerie town and the sleeping boy in the glass coffin but one or two always go missing, never to be seen again. Tourists, the locals say, the folk don’t interfere with locals, if they do, you must be acting like a tourist.
The boy in the glass coffin has been there for as long as living memory. No one knows how he came to be there but teenager brother and sister, Hazel and Ben, have spent their childhood making up all kinds of stories about him, he’s both their prince and their monster. One day, a confused Hazel wakes up with mud on her feet, glass in her hair and the news that the coffin has been smashed and the boy is missing. Suddenly all hell breaks loose in Fairfold and the tenuous peace the folk and the residents had been enjoying is over. The Alderking wants the boy and he’s setting the mythical monster on the town to find him, so it’s up to Hazel and Ben to save the day.
Going into this story I expected it to be about two young children in a very Disney-like jaunt to save the faerie kingdom. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the dark direction this story took. It was partly about normal angsty teenagers growing up in our normal modern world and partly about the faerie-inhabited forest that the teenagers reside beside. The contrast of the magical world and the modern town makes the story really fun. In the chaos of the Alderking waging war, you have some not so typical teenagers, Hazel and Ben, struggling with typical teenage issues as well as a deadly battle to save their town.
This is both a modern and traditional fairytale. It exists in the modern world and is quite self aware of the impossibility of faeries and magic. The sinister faeries are in the old tradition of fairytales, before Disney got their hands on them and made them happy. It’s well known in the town of Fairfold that you don’t interact with the folk, they’re dangerous and range from tricksy to murderous. I really liked this dark tension between the faeries and the residents of the town and if anything I wish it had been even creepier. The town has never been totally safe from the faeries and this magical danger could have been played up a lot more.
The magical elements jarred with the ordinary lives of the characters but this worked well. It was lovely and original to set the fairytale with a magical world and normal world alongside each other without the main character having to discover the alternate world. Black did include some great fairytale motifs like moral instructions and the courtly scenes fairytales are often set around. But I loved the way she changed the damsel in distress to boy and the rescuing knight to a girl, it’s just another way she’s updated the genre and put modern issues in.
Despite it’s good use of tradition, this is a throughly modern fairytale containing some really sophisticated and unpleasant themes like child neglect and prejudice, hidden behind the guise of monsters and magic. Black explores these themes in a way that’s just uncomfortable enough, the reactions of the residents to the threat of the forest leaves you with unsettling questions about human nature and who the real monsters are.
This is undoubtably a fairytale but there’s another side to this book too. It’s a story about teenagers containing all normal worries about growing up, fitting in and relationships. The sexual themes, while not particularly provocative, make it clear that this book is not aimed at young children, which is why I would have loved the fairytale aspect to have been so much scarier. I missed the feeling of danger lurking right over my shoulder. I really enjoyed this book, I love fairytales and I think how Black has reworked one for the modern world is just brilliant.
For more Holly Black, check out her chilling novel about Vampires in the future The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
You can read more book reviews or buy The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.