The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black Book Review

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 13, 2015

Fairfold is a town that is used to faeries, having lived side by side with them for generations in relative harmony. Sure, the occasional tourist goes missing or winds up dead, but they obviously didn't know the fae rules. And if someone town goes missing? Well, obviously they did something wrong.

Hazel and her brother Ben have both been touched by the Fae. Ben was "blessed" by a fairy to love music, but this blessing quickly became a curse and now Ben avoids music at all costs. Ben's best friend Jack is a changeling who, when his mother found the changeling, not only demanded her real son back, but refused to give Jack back. "If his mother was willing to give him away, then I get to keep him." Hazel is a warrior, having spent many a day in the forest with Ben, before he quit playing music, hunting monsters and avenging the tourists who had been killed. That all changed when Hazel made a deal with the fae in exchange for her brother getting into a good music school. Things went bad though and so here they are, a cursed musician and a girl waiting for a fight.

Then strange things begin to happen. The sleeping boy in the woods, the boy with horns on his head that sleeps in a glass coffin, wakes up. No one knows who woke him, but the fairy King is angry. Then a creature, mad with grief, begins to attack the town. Townspeople want to blame Jack, but Hazel has quite a few secrets of her own and is beginning to put together the pieces of her magicked puzzle.

Sometimes it takes me awhile, but eventually I get to the books I want to read. When this book first came out I really wanted to buy it right away, sure that I would love it. I am glad I didn't. Although certainly this is the kind of book that I enjoy, there were a number of elements within that made me either cringe or want to stop reading. The only way I was able to power through was because I listened to it as an audio book. It wasn't that the writing itself was bad as I think Holly Black is a very good author, there were just a number of elements in this particular story that didn't do it for me.

The premise of the story, while compelling, had a lot of pacing problems. This was probably because, although it should have read like a plot-driven story, we were in the character's heads so much that it quickly became character-driven. This made the story maddeningly slow at times as we got to experience Ben falling in love with the know, while a monster is threatening to destroy the entire town. Hazel turns out to be a rather well-trained fighter (although she can't remember), but more time is spent with her fretting over this fact than her actually fighting. Which is sad. Why introduce this element if we only get to see her fight twice?

Speaking of those romances between Ben & the Horned Boy and Hazel & Jack. I know I am not a fan of romance in my books, I admit this readily, but I can recognize when it is done well. This was not. There was very little chemistry between these characters. Hazel's relationship with her brother felt somewhat more authentic although a bit annoying.

Here is the truth of the matter though, the reason this character-driven story didn't work for me. I don't like Hazel. Hazel, the girl who kisses guys for some kind of high. Hazel who makes bad deals with fairies after being told not to her entire life. Hazel who has some serious communications issues with the people in her life. Hazel who continues to put herself and her friends in danger over and over. Hazel who, once discovering she is a trained knight of the fae at night, does nothing but winge about this fact. Hazel whose trust issues flip-flop back and forth depending on how hot the guy is. I could not relate to this girl or anyone else in the story for that matter. She was just another romantic lead, caught up in a story that was too big for her.