[Friday Flash Review] The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

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❧ Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
❧ Author: Holly Black
❧ Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
❧ Publication date: 13th January 2015
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough

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20958632In A Nutshell

✎ Role reversal twins: soft guy princey type; warrior girl knight. Small town in rural America where the forest is full of dark secrets and danger. Having spent their childhoods in the woods, Ben and Hazel know that things aren’t always as they seem, even if the town of Fairfold is so used to its long history with faeries that the things that happen are simply just accepted as they are.
✎ Queer romance! Changelings! Cursed sleeping faerie princes!
✎ A mysterious faerie, loved by both twins but without much of a lasting, terrible sibling rivalry love triangle (where the straight ship is launched, because isn’t it always if this happens).
✎ A brilliant juxtaposition of contemporary fantasy and fairytale and folklore, with life in Fairfold every bit as normal as any other town in rural America. Except for the faeries, of course. And the occasionally missing tourist, but hey.
✎Diverse ☒ (queerness and secondary characters who are PoC)

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What I loved

✎ Everything. Absolutely everything. This book is enchanting and delightful and reads every bit the way a modern faerie tale should. Ben and Hazel are compelling, interesting characters and they are so well-written as siblings.
✎ Q u e e r  r o m a n c e. I can’t stress this enough, really. Any book that gives me queer romance is automatically going to get bonus points, let alone if its a m/m romance.
✎ Faeries! Anyone who knows me knows that faeries are my thing. I am an actual changeling so really that shouldn’t be a surprise. I eat up stories that involve the fae, whether they’re fantasy or urban fantasy or that grey area between. Basically, faeries.
✎ Black’s writing style is just meant tot write books like this: it’s very gently lyrical whilst being utterly engaging and even “mundane”, but in the best of ways. It’s as though she brings faerie completely to life in a modern setting without losing or compromising on any of the magic and wonder and even terror of what faeries can really be like.
✎ The point that Ben and Hazel’s parents are generally guilty of “benign neglect”. I am always eager to see the various ways in which parents can totally mess up with their kids being displayed: it’s important to demonstrate and explore the fact that violence and/or abuse aren’t the only ways in which parents can hurt or damage their kids. Not being there can be just as damaging and even if the parents themselves are great people that does not mean they’re great at being parents.
✎ Hazel’s strength and bravery and general kick-assness, matched with her brother’s artistic softness.

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If you liked this…

…then you might also like: Holly Black’s other faerie tale books, particularly her Modern Faerie Tales books, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, as well as the upcoming The Cruel Prince, which the first of a new series called The Folk of the Air and is also about faeries. This is slated for an early 2018 release.

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The Vanishing Throne, by Elizabeth May [The Falconer #2]

  • Title: The Vanishing Throne (The Falconer #2)
  • Author: Elizabeth May
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Publication date: 19th November 2015 (UK) 7th June 2016 (USA – Chronicle)
  • Rating: ★★★★★

51z1+okqIeL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_I loved The Falconer, the first of the trilogy of the same name, by Elizabeth May. We’re talking big, big love. Faeries are my thing. Give me faeries. I’m also somewhat partial to incredibly kickass girls who hunt and kill fae by night to avenge their mothers and fight against the gnawing grief and PTSD, apparently. When you add in everything else that made The Falconer amazing—war and ancient feuds and secrets and good fae versus bad, and also romance and swords and that sort of thing—it’s no surprise that the bar for The Vanishing Throne was set very, very high.

Things were very tense for Lady Aileana Kameron at the end of The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne sees her pulled through into a world she has no business being in. She failed, and now Scotland—and beyond—will pay the price, letting the fae and the Wild Hunt free in the human realm after centuries trapped and hungry. The fae are bent on destruction, and now Aileana isn’t there to fight them. And even if she were, what use is she? She might be a Falconer, but she was powerless before. They lost.

Now she’s trapped by Lonnrach—and nobody is coming for her. She’s alone and breaking, prisoner of both her own mind and Lonnrach’s sadistic interrogations as he rifles through even her most mundane and private of memories in search of something he’s certain she has. Aileana is strong, but she’s been through too much, and the pain and fear of what Lonnrach does to her sends her into a spiral of her own mind.

But she’s not been forgotten, and soon, help arrives. And just in time: there’s only so long someone can remain strong for, and this time Aileana might just have been about to break. Before long, aided by possibly the strangest faery she’s ever met, and she has met (and killed) a few.

Soon she is on her way back to her own world, back to Edinburgh, and she can only guess at what awaits her. The fact that the faery sent to aid her won’t tell her anything of the people she left behind? Not reassuring. Not reassuring at all.

After managing to flee Lonnrach and return to Edinburgh, she realises more than she could have imagined has changed—and it’s all her fault. But some things remain the same, and in spite of everything that has happened, everything she has been through, Kiaran is still there and they might just have a future together. Possibly.

If they survive everything, that is. Which seems less and less likely with the odds that keep mounting. Still, with steadfast allies and the threads of a way to foil Lonnrach coming together within reach, they press on together and seek to do whatever they can to save what’s left of the world they barely recognise any longer.

But as things progress, secrets about the past are revealed and however deep Aileana thought the truth might run, however twisted and buried the secrets might be, she could never have guessed at the truth that lies at the heart of things.

It is an unimaginable truth—one that changes everything.

With so much lost already, Aileana will fight to the last for everything that remains. And she won’t do it alone.

The Vanishing Throne is a gorgeously-written and gripping adventure that took the story of The Falconer and turned everything up to eleven. The stakes are massive and game-changing and the Aileana we know and love is more fragile than she’s ever been, but in that fragility there’s a strength even she can’t see half the time. That’s what makes her so much moremoremore in this absolutely stunning sequel. May’s writing has evolved to a completely new level of wow and I couldn’t love this book more. I was barely three pages in when I had to stop and send a garbled email about just how much I loved this book.

That’s how much I loved this book.

The friendship, the romance, the sheer raw violence and grief and everythingness is so astoundingly stellar that it’s hard to believe that the book is over and now I need to wait for the third. I don’t quite know what it is about May’s prose, but there’s something that makes it sing off the page to me. Reading The Vanishing Throne was a pure joy and occasionally I had to stop to just hug my Kindle and then hug my beautiful hardcover of the book.

I love big things in books, where writers aren’t afraid to really, really do something huge and epic and wow. May gave me precisely this for the finale of The Vanishing Throne, upping the tension and stakes even higher than I’d thought possible (and I usually dream pretty big).

Everything is gorgeous and powerful and saturated with yesness. It is a magical, exciting adventure of war and loss and fighting and never giving up, all interwoven with beautiful and delightful friendships that feel real and are so utterly right that they shine off the page, every bit as important and glorious as the romance (which also shines very brightly, as it happens).

The Vanishing Throne is one of those books that couldn’t possibly be allowed to end, because then it would be over. Whatever it is about May’s writing that draws me in and keeps me gripped, keeps me enchanted, it’s here in double measures in the second book of this trilogy. I’m addicted and don’t even care.

Let’s just say that I really, really, really need book three.

A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J Maas [A Court of Thorns and Roses #1]

✎Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: 5th May 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

16096824Oh, Sarah J Maas, how can I compare thee to literally the most amazing thing ever? Oh—I just did. So, apparently, like that. Really, if things had been going as swimmingly as they should, there would be dazzling reviews already up here expressing my deep and fervent love for Maas and her Throne of Glass series. As it happens, the swimming and I are only just falling back into stroke—so!—that means here I am, reviewing A Court of Thorns and Roses as the first book by Maas I’ve blogged about.

Which, it isn’t. Not that this is really relevant—because it isn’t. I just really, really love Maas so any excuse to say “omg isn’t she fantabulously amazing!?” is just too much to pass up. So, I really, really love Maas. Still, I went into A Court of Thorns and Roses thinking, “yeah, but Feyre: you’re not Celaena, are you? Well—are you?!”

I wasn’t expecting to be sitting here with a thousand instances of sharing breakfast with my brother, basically saying one word about A Court Of Thorns And Roses and being met with an echo of “I know, right?!” under my belt. And yet, here I am.

The thing with Sarah J Maas is that she is my favourite writer. This used to be an accolade reserved for the Shadowhunter mistress of my heart, Cassandra Clare. And before her, the master of silences of three parts, Patrick Rothfuss. But nobody—read—nobody has ever made me feel like Maas does. So many things in life make sense when shared with Celaena Sardothien. And so, when Feyre came onto the scene and I found out that, no, it wasn’t set in the same world as Throne of Glass and no, it wasn’t about Celaena and co, I was a little disappointed. (Shame on me.)

Silly, silly, Leo.

When I attended an event with Maas in Salisbury this summer, I hadn’t read A Court of Thorns and Roses yet. I’d been reading Heir of Fire. But just seeing Maas, just hearing her talk about what A Court of Thorns and Roses held and I was already mesmerised. Maas is just… she’s a spectacular person. And her writing. Man, her writing.

Okay. Review the book, Leo. Quit it with the open love letter, already. Review. The. Book.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first of a new trilogy by Sarah J Maas, and tells the story of Feyre, a huntress who stalks the woods near her small, ramshackle home to feed her family. Though Feyre was born into some wealth, much of that turned out to be a façade, with debts creeping in from the past—and bad investments threatening the present. In the end, Feyre and her sisters were forced to leave their former lives behind when Feyre was young. Their father, having received a crippling beating for his unwise money-borrowing, merely haunts the house, mourning their dead mother. Much of the responsibility has been left to Feyre, with one sister spending whatever money does come into the household in what seems like either sheer stubborn vanity, or a desperate attempt to force their father to do something, and with the other far too sweet-natured to hunt or help much beyond tending a garden. She is on her own when she heads out into the forest to hunt.

And that’s where her life changes—forever.

There are stories of the fae, of the war between human and faeries and the dreadful, terrible things they do. How they torment and kill humans for sport and enslave them. Until the war and the division of the realms, humans were offered little protection from the immortal faeries and their magic. But the barrier between the realms keeps them safe, separate. The faeries, beyond in the north of Prythian, do not venture to the human lands.

Until they do.

Feyre is hunting, starving and on her guard. She is desperate. Desperate enough to become a murderer.

Before she realises what is happening, there is blood on Feyre’s hands and although she takes home meat to feed her family and the pelt of a wolf to sell for coin, nothing will ever be the same again. The terms of a treaty are invoked and she is taken away into the lands of the enemy—away from her family and into the heart of the enchanted lands of the fae. She finds herself free to wander the vast estate of Lord Tamlin; her life in exchange for the one she took. But Feyre soon questions everything—even begins to question what truly lies in the hearts of these faeries she’s been taught to fear so much.

Something hangs over the faeries she meets—a darkness that seems to draw closer every day. But with only her wits to trust and the constant worry about her family gnawing at her, Feyre finds it difficult to lower her guard enough to trust and explore the way she desperately needs to. Yet how can she trust a house of faeries all wearing masks they cannot remove? When there is talk of a blight?

But despite her best efforts to remain aloof and cold, slowly the ice in Feyre’s heart begins to melt and she sees the faeries around her not as the creatures she’s been told to fear—but as the people they truly are.

However, Feyre may just realise what is happening around her far too late to stop it and the darkness hanging over the people she is growing to care for might swallow them whole before she can make her move. And with those around her playing their own long games, knowing what to trust or who to see truth in might just lead to her downfall.

Before Feyre knows it she is swept into a world that is not her own and forced to play the deadliest game of her life: a game to save not only herself, but she one she has fallen in love with. And if Feyre cannot succeed, against all the odds, then she will truly pay for the life she took—with her own.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a deep and vast story of love and hope and fighting against darkness against until the last. It made me laugh; it made me cry. There is a sense of emotion woven into every single page Maas commits words to and this is no exception. Feyre is hard and closed, but when she melts, a vulnerable core is revealed, showing that even if a heart is housed in ice and hate and steel, all it takes to melt it free is the truth of another’s heart. Maas is a genius at weaving emotion, at giving you characters to care about; people to cling to and adore. From Lucien and his deeply troubled past, to Tamlin and his honour and courage, everyone is more than they first seem. No-one more so than Feyre herself.

There is a magic to A Court of Thorns and Roses; an enchanting otherness experienced through watching Feyre with these creatures both so alike and unlike herself. In this story, she is the other and it is she who finds her place. With the most thrilling of climaxes, this book will make you feel all the feels and then feel them all over again.

Written with faerie dust and edited by unicorns, A Court of Thorns and Roses was everything I didn’t expect it to be—and then some. Rich and terrifying in its portrayal of revenge and evil and the price of everything we do. Perfect, stellar, stunning. Are there are more positive adjectives I can string together? Probably.

But until then, you need this book in your lives. You just do.