This was my first time reading a Holly Black book and it definitely won’t be last. The Darkest Part of the Forest read like a magical fairytale, with terrifying monsters, brave heroes and swooning romance. This book is the definition of creative and out of the box and I’m so, so, happy that I’ve read it!
The world building in this book is gobsmacking. It truly transfers you into a magical realm where monstrous creatures are both feared and respected and one human girl has an urging instinct to be a fearless knight and protect the town. The book takes place in Fairfold, which centuries ago a horrendous Fey king, the Alderking took his court and overtook the woods. Fairfold has a mystical hold on its occupants – people fear what lives in the woods yet they are in love with the magic and amazingness of the town.
Food taste better in Fairfold, people said, infused as it was with enchantment. Dreams were more vivid. Artists were more inspired and their work more beautiful. People fell more deeply in love, music was more pleasing to the ear, and ideas came more frequently than other places.
The little folk tales Black uses to convey all the horrible and wonderful folk made me feel like I was reading a modern fairytale. I don’t usually read fey novels so I don’t know if the creatures in the tales are famous fey but I felt like I was getting a crash course in how frightening and amazing the fey are.
The main characters in The Darkest Part of the Forest, Hazel, Ben, Jack, and Severin are all individual and intertwined to become amazing characters, their unique and interesting to read, they are also very complicated characters with their own personal demons.
Since a very early age Hazel has sort out adventures, she and her brother Ben used to make up stories about breaking free the horned boy in the coffin and saving the town. They use to play at being knights, protecting the town by slaying one evil fey at a time. She believes she is doing the right thing, and maybe she is, but being a child and a killer, even a killer of killers, was worrisome to me. Child Hazel and even the Hazel who is a late teen both saw her killing as thrilling and something necessary instead of something that she started by choice.
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill monsters and feel quite proud of themselves. Even a girl who carries spiders outside instead of stepping on them, a girl who once fed a tiny fox kit with an eyedropper every two hours until wildlife rescue could come and pick it up – that same girl can kill and be ready to do it again.
When Ben was a baby he was bestowed with a wonderful gift from the Fey, as much as it’s beautiful and amazing it always frightens him. This power he wasn’t supposed to have and doesn’t have the training the control. Ben is an extremely insecure character, he is unsure of himself and where he fits into Hazel’s larger than life world. He equal parts loves and envy’s Hazel. Ben was a super interesting character to read he craves love and affection but is powerless to his insecurities.
“But yeah, I wanted to be in love like in the storybooks and songs and ballads. Love that hits you like a lightning bolt. And I’m sorry, because yeah, I get that you think I’m ridiculous. I get that you think I’m hilarious. I know, I get you mocking me. I get how stupid I am, but at least I know.”
Ben melts my heart!! You’re NOT stupid Ben!!
I think of all the characters Jack was my favourite. Jack is a changeling, a fey who is a copy of a human. His birth mother stole Jack’s human, Carter from Carters parents when he was a baby and replaced him with Jack. Carter’s parents fought back against the fey and were given Carter back, but refused to give Jack back as well. So Jack has grown up in the human world. Did that make any sense?? I loved that Jack had to fight with being unsure where he belonged. He has magic, yet has to hide it or be feared and hated. Jack is kind and gentle and just plan GOOD. I really really liked him.
Severin – oh my goodness, Severin – is an asshole when we first introduced to him! We wait so long to finally have a conversation with him and then he’s a dick. Only after time did I start to like him. The way he is with Ben just thawed my cold heart!! Severin is a very ancient fey and that feeling definitely came through when he was in a scene. He had the ability to take over a scene.
The romance is full of huge declarations of love, and breaking down protective walls, and swoon worthy lines. I definitely ship Ben and Severin! I want them to have their own novel! **hint hint Ms. Black** Jack and Hazel I liked together but I could never get into completely. However, the first time Jack called Hazel sweetheart I just about melted into a pile of goo. I don’t even know why, it wasn’t a big part or anything, but it was just perfect!
The Not So Amazing:
I absolutely devoured the first 100 pages of this book, I was sucked into the world and the characters. I couldn’t wait until the horned boy woke up, but then once he did and I realised this book wasn’t going to have a romance between Hazel and Severin I kind of grew uninterested for a while. I went into this novel expecting that Hazel was going to break the horned boy out of the casket and then all this stuff was going to happen, and one of ‘all this stuff’ was going to be a kickass romance between the two of them. Is that not what the blurb alludes to???
This resulted in me taking a really long time to get a good chunk of the middle. Of course once I continued reading and realised that Black had created the romances this way so everyone gets a happy ending I didn’t mind anymore and got back into the book and then devoured the rest.
Next bit is a bit spoilery
I would have also liked to know more about Hazel’s night self, and how the deal worked out after the Alderking death. Did it continue or did Severin cancel it??
I know everyone is raving about how good this book is as a standalone and they’re glad it’s not part of a series but… Ms. Black if you wanted to write a sequel I’d be lining up to read it. I want to know what’s going to happen to Ben and learning how to control his gift and Severin and his relationship. I want to know what’s going to happen with Hazel and her night self and Jack dealing with staying young while everyone he loves ages. I feel like there are a lot of unanswered questions and if there’s no sequel I’m going to be left wondering. I loved Black’s writing style its crazy awesome and I’ve gone and brought The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which I’m sure will be equally amazing! I’m so glad I read this amazing book!!