The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
No spoilers and colorful language abound! I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Normally I wouldn't review an ARC this early, but honestly, I cannot help myself.
I stood in line at BEA a good 40 minutes before the drop time, anxiously counting all the people in front of me, clinging to a desperate hope that there would be enough copies. There was some shoving, some light elbow nudging, a glazed over fog in the faces of the fans, all uniting in a singular objective: getting an ARC of this book. It was all worth it.
Confession time you guys, I am a Holly Black newbie, and with that comes all the glorious musings of a blogger who just discovered their new favorite author. The Darkest Part of the Forest blew my mind. I am a fan for life.
Ben and Hazel Evans live in the town of Fairfold, where the line between the human reality and the otherness of Faery blur, a town with a glass coffin housing a beautiful horned boy in eternal sleep. Mortals have long been enamored with the Fae, equal parts chanting and dangerous but the townsfolk have an odd symbiotic relationship with the them. Locals stay out of the woods on a full moon, they turn their socks inside out and stuff their pockets with iron and oatmeal, and in return the Fae leave them be. The tourists on the other hand are free game, that is until an 11 year old girl who fancies herself a knight, starts to fight back.
Hazel and Ben were raised by artists, forgetful parents who valued all nighters with oil paints over dinner and a bath. They were wildly imaginative children, a knight and a balladeer, they were each others caretakers, they were each other's everything until one day too many secrets piled up between them. Their imagined prince, the horned boy wakes from his sleep, they must finally say all the things they have been hiding from each other in order to protect him.
That's about all I'm going to say on the plot, this is a very character driven novel and I won't spoil you!
Holly Black's writing is both profoundly understated and eloquent beyond measure. The way she can pack a single sentence with tremendous emotion left me speechless and craving more. The world building of Fairfold was perfectly executed, "info dumping" transformed into gorgeous prose, I was enraptured from the very first page.
Something else really struck a chord with me and should be praised, in this story we have a young male gay character who is out, and not a single aspect of this is trivialized by some ignorant stereo type. Ben speaks of love and insecurity, he speaks of family and self evaluates, he is a wonderfully realized character with a rich sense of humanity. All too often "the gay guy" is coined as some cartoony mishmash of the exaggerated, a trite plot point rather than a complex and compelling character. Holly Black masterfully normalized his sexuality in a way I feel should be embraced by all.
The Deepest Part of the Forest is dazzlingly good with fanciful highs and dark lows, at the heart remains the love of a brother and sister united once more as a knight and balladeer. Nothing short of spectacular it transcends it's genre and hold it's rightful place with the best of the best