Holly Black is no stranger to Fairies. This is her third foray into the world of the fair folk. She first co-authored the Spiderwick Chronicles with Tony DiTerlizzi and then went solo on Modern Faerie Tales, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside. She knows her fairy mythology. The Darkest Part of the Forest is a return to her fairy roots, so to speak.
Sister and Brother Hazel and Ben live in a strange town of Fairfold, where humans and fairy live side by side. They have sort of agreement where the fairies leave the townspeople alone but can do what they want to the tourists. Nice, right? In the center of the wood, lays a glass casket that has an attractive horned fairy inside, sleeping. Never waking. Both Hazel and Ben are in love with him and one day are going to wake him and save the town.
Hazel knows to fear the fey. They may seem harmless but they are not. She and Ben used to hunt faeries. Ben has a gift for music, blessed and cursed by a fairy when he was a baby. Ben would lull the faires with his music and Hazel would strike them down. The Bard and the Knight. All went well until Ben couldn’t control his gift and got scared. Hazel makes a bargain with the Alderking, who rules the fairies in the forest. If Ben gets a scholarship to a music school in Philadelphia, she’ll give seven years of her life to them. Ben did but things didn’t turn out as planned, as often it does with fairy bargains. Back in Fairfold, Hazel throws herself at boys to distract her from troubles, while Ben desperately tries to escape Fairfold and be normal. Everything changes when the mysterious horned fairy boy is freed from the casket and awakes. Hazel and Ben must finally face all of their secrets and fears and do what they did as kings. Hunt down fairies and save the town.
I liked this book but it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t know how to explain it but it seems to not have the spark of her other books. Or maybe since I loved her last book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown that I just expected more. The characters are all likable. The most likeable is Jack, the changeling boy who is also Ben’s best friend and Hazel’s long time crush. I liked how that Ben is gay but it doesn’t define him. It’s not a obstacle he has to overcome or come to terms with, it’s just a fact and accepted. Or the fact that Jack is a changeling. People just seem to accept him as is, until things start to fall apart of course.
So really the story isn’t about fairies at all but about finding yourself and being honest with yourself and others. In like most novels, the conflicts could have all been avoided if they didn’t keep secrets from themselves but I guess that wouldn’t be much of a story. All and all, it was a good but not great.