Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

9780316213073Oh sweet fairy bread and sprinkles…this book was beyond fantastic. The Darkest Part of the Forest is probably my favourite Holly Black book. And I’ve read quite a few!! The Tithe series being my least favourite, but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and the Curseworker Trilogy coming in a tight second. I think Holly Black is a genius wizard. Her skills are basically AHHHH!

The Darkest Part of the Forest is beautiful and powerful and darkly fantastical and bloody — and basically completely perfect.

It’s a magical story about Hazel and her brother, Ben, and their love for a horned boy cursed to sleep in a glass coffin. Words do not convey how awesome this is. They live in Fairfold, which is absolutely embroiled in fairies. It’s a tourist attraction but the locals know the fairies are real. There’s mischief. There’s unexplainable phenomenons (like the horned boy). People die. Kids are kidnapped by the supernatural. Just your average day in Fairfold.

“So, just another dull night in Fairfold, where everyone’s a lunatic or an elf.”

I absolutely adored Hazel. She’s brave and has zero concept of defeat. She seemed like Peter Pan at times…growing up, but still clinging to her magical childhood. She slew monsters with her brother (who has a magical curse/gift for music) and was a warrior. Ben was equally wonderful and shared the narration. He was older, quiet, always trodden on. He and Hazel used to be thick as thieves but…bad stuff goes down. I shall not say. READ THE BOOK.

I also have to mention Jack and Carter. Jack is a changeling. Because every family, when their child gets kidnapped by fairies, will demand their real child back AND keep the changeling. They are a fantastic “brother” duo and I loved them!
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The mystery of the horned boy in his glass coffin in the forest is just DELICIOUS. I have to admit, though, I liked him better when he was unconscious. When he woke, I thought he’d have a stronger personality? But that’s literally my only complaint.

He was every bit as monstrously beautiful as he’d been. You could drown in beauty like that.

If the characters aren’t entrancing enough…the writing is beautiful. I loved reading those adorable little letters on the page SO MUCH I couldn’t put the book down. I was absolutely caught up in the magic and creamy description and murderous plot twists.

It has a bit of a bittersweet ending and I’m sorry it’s a standalone. I wanted more and more of this world and these characters! I shall have to just reread it a million and a half times while I want for Holly Black’s 2017 series to come out. But Fairfold and Hazel, Ben and Jack made the book a magical, unforgettable adventure. I can’t recommend this one enough!

There’s a monster in our wood
She’ll get you if you’re not good
Drag you under leaves and sticks
Punish you for all your tricks
A nest of hair and gnawed bone
You are never, ever coming…home.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Zombies and Unicorns

So what is it that the shuffling undead have in common with the equine symbols of purity? Well, nothing really. It’s just that for some odd reason they seem to divide opinion. Apparently, most people favour one or the other.

Authors Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black had a bit of a blogging discussion about zombies verus unicorns on Larbalestier’s blog. This eventually resulted in the two of them co-editing a YA short story anthology titled, yes you guessed it, Zombies vs Unicorns. It’s a great read. (Checkout my review on the MC Reviews website.)

Aside from the fact that I enjoyed reading the stories contained within its pages, this book made quite an impact on me as a writer. I was working on my novel, Gamers’ Challenge (sequel to Gamers’ Quest), when I read Zombies vs Unicorns. Unlike Larbalestier and Black, I did not find myself drawn to one of these imaginary creatures over the other. In fact, I loved the idea of using both of them. And so I did. Gamers’ Challenge, which will be published later this year by Ford Street Publishing, features both zombies and unicorns within its pages. When first plotting the novel, there was no trace of zombies or unicorns. But after reading the anthology, I just couldn’t resist working them in.

There was a moment in the plot that needed an unusual, unexpected threat. My original outline simply said something along the lines of “the heroes face a new threat, run around a bit and then escape, only to find themselves facing an even greater threat”. I knew what the greater threat was going to be, but I needed that unexpected threat. And now I had it — zombies.

Gamers’ Challenge also needed some mythic creatures to take part in the climactic battle. I already had a Chimaera, but I needed something else. Answer — a unicorn. In fact, I even ended up giving the unicorn a little extra time earlier in the novel.

Now that Gamers’ Challenge is finished and on its way to publication, I find myself being drawn back to both unicorns and zombies. And I keep thinking about what I would have written for the Zombies vs Unicorns anthology had I had the opportunity to contribute. Well, of course, I would have written a story with both creatures… or maybe… I would have combined the two and written something like this…

The first thing I noticed about the creature was its horn. The end was broken off, leaving a jagged edge that dripped with blood from its recent kill. It looked up at me, momentarily distracted from its meal of virgin’s brain, gore dribbling from the corners of its mouth. It stared at me with dead, vacant eyes and I noticed that one of its ears hung down, connected by a mere flap of decaying skin. It made a sound that was part whinny, part moan. It was a sad sound. A haunting sound. And possibly the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard. Then it returned to its grey matter feast, using a rotting hoof to hold down the body while biting into the girl’s brain with blackened teeth.

I had never been more thankful for my lack of virginity. And to think that Mum said it had been the greatest mistake of my young life. But she hadn’t realised that the zombie unicorn apocalypse was just around the corner.

Hmmm! I think it’s got potential. Well… maybe not.

One final thing to mention today. Tonight I’m off to the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne to do a reading from Gamers’ Quest as part of their regular Debut Mondays programme. So, if you find yourself in the Melbourne CBD this evening at 6.15pm with nothing to do… why not drop into the Wheeler Centre and listen to me and three other authors do some reading. More info here! I’ll probably report back about how it all went in my next post.

Catch ya later, George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll inflict some more zombie/unicorn fiction on you.
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Interview with Charlotte McConaghy (Part 2)

One thing I love about Charlotte, writer of the Strangers of Paragor series, is that she doesn’t shy away from being totally girly and romantic. Book 2 of the series was released just last month, I was fortunate enough to read it, and I came away dreaming about faraway lands and dashing princes. But for the boys (and the more violent-natured femmes among us) there’s a stack of adventure and some rather bloodlusty scenes as well…

Charlotte, in Descent, the six Strangers are reunited. Why did you decide to reunite them in Book 2 of the Strangers of Paragor, halfway through, rather than at the end (Book 3) or at the very beginning (Book 1)?

For starters, I didn’t want too many characters in the first book, otherwise it becomes hard for the reader to keep track of them – there’s already quite a few! And by bringing Jack and Mia into the second book, it still gives us characters we can relate to without feeling like everyone has just settled in and knows what’s going on. They couldn’t come in too late though, because then they wouldn’t be properly involved in the bigger story-line that runs through books 2, 3 and 4.

What can readers expect from the all-important book 3? Any spoilers you can give us?

Think: Angels!! Books 3 and 4 are going to have a much bigger focus on the archangels, and the Strangers’ connection to them. A big spoiler…. One of the main characters is actually going to become an angel! The books are also very relationship-py, because by that stage everyone has become totally embroiled in each other’s dramas – lots of ‘will they get together or won’t they?’ ‘who will end up with who?’ and ‘who is going to get married?’

Hooray for angels! *clearly loves angels* Do you believe angels are the new vampires? Why/why not?

Yeah, I think we can move into the angel phase – it’s the same concept – an immortal/inhuman creature with human-like features and emotions is hot. Simple as that. Creatures that can do cool stuff (like flying or being super strong) are just more fun to read about. And people are going to get sick of vampires eventually. Pretty soon there will be something else altogether – after angels my prediction is faeries. I’m loving the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr about dark and violent faeries who feed off dark emotion – very creepy, very cool.

I seriously need to read some Melissa Marr. If she’s anything like Holly Black, I am so in. What books are on your bedside table?

I just finished Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead which was cool. I love heroines who can kick butt. I reread all of Guy Gavriel Kay’s stuff whenever I can’t find anything else to read (he’s an adult fantasy writer). I looooove The Time Traveler’s Wife – most romantic book in the world.

Oh I know. I don’t think the movie did it justice, even though Eric Bana was pretty attractive as Henry! What about your favourite fantasy movie, and why:

I love ‘Hero’, ‘House of Flying Daggers’ and all those gorgeous Asian cinema films because they’re so beautiful and romantic and full of courage and passion and betrayal. I love Tristan and Isolde for its romance. Lord of the Rings, of course. More recently: Avatar, no matter what people say about it. And I love 300 because I’m really into Greek history and mythology.

Like I said last piece, it’s like you stole my movie brain. THIS IS SPARTA!!….
Funny you didn’t talk about the Twilight movies based on the books by Stephenie Meyer, especially with Eclipse blowing the box office to bits lately. A little birdy told me you’re addicted to the Twilight series …what do you think makes them so popular? Should they be elevated to ‘classic’ status?

Actually I’m not that fussed about them – I enjoyed them when I read them, but wouldn’t say I’m addicted. She’s done awesomely for herself though – good on her! However I definitely don’t think they should be classics – there’s heaps of other teen lit that’s just as good, if not better.

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Again, Charlotte, agreed. Stay tuned for the final interview post with Miss McConaghy – apparently she’s sick of working retail!

USER REVIEW: Tithe by Holly Black

Kaye is merely sixteen years old and yet she hangs out in bars; watching her mother’s band whilst drinking, smoking and swearing.  She shoplifts and stays out as late as she wants and her mother doesn’t care. But they do love each other and they seem to be pretty good friends. Would you call this ‘good parenting’?  Personally I wouldn’t but that is Kaye’s life.  She doesn’t have it easy, and she definitely isn’t perfect and that is what sets this book apart from other Faerie stories at the moment, for example Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.

Enter tall, hot, pewter haired faerie of the male variety.  This is when the chaos begins.  Between fights with friends, shocking surprises, death, new friendships, love and giving up smoking; Kaye gets busy!

This book really does contain quite a bit of swearing and this may put some people off.  To me though, it helps build the characters, it shows that they aren’t perfect little princesses.  Nor is it used out of context – these words are said by the characters, NOT used in descriptions by Black.

I can definitely see why people have been raving about this book.  Its dark grittiness sets it apart from other current faerie stories, and maybe even puts it ahead of them.  I think Holly Black is a great story-teller with such a well-written and compelling book.  The twists are mostly unexpected and are truly unique.

Overall, I loved this book and rate it at 4 stars out of 5.  I recommend it to teens and young adults aged 14 plus (because I’ve heard that the last book in the series, Valiant, contains explicit content) who are lovers of faerie stories, urban fantasy or just fantasy in general.

This review was written by Boomerang Books Member CMM, winner of last month’s $50 worth of Boomerang Bucks for Best Review. Submit a review for your chance to win!