Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 8 hours, 39 minutes
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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?

The Cruel Prince was my first Holly Black book. I'm not sure why I had avoided her until then, but I finally gave into the hype and, since I LOVED that book, I decided to give The Darkest Part of the Forest a try. I'd heard that all of her faerie books were in a shared universe and that this was one of her best, so I went in with high expectations.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a strange story about a brother and sister, Hazel and Ben, who live in a human town where faeries also exist. In the town is a coffin that has been there for decades and inside the coffin is a faerie prince. Hazel and Ben have been visiting the coffin for years and love the prince. Hazel and Ben were both interesting characters who I didn't feel particularly strongly for one way or the other. As I said, they're both in love with the prince and both go out of their way to help him once he's awake. I enjoyed their sibling relationship and the lengths they each went to in order to protect one another. Still, they each made selfish choices that made them seem much more relatable.

However... I did find it hard to connect with Hazel. While I could sympathize with the things she was feeling, I had a hard time understanding a lot of her actions. There's a type of female character that I really dislike - the ones who are such STRONG women that they actually just make really stupid, rash decisions to prove how strong they are. That's kind of how Hazel was. Her choices didn't make sense and a lot of them led to situations that could have easily been avoided with a little more thought.

One thing I really enjoyed in The Darkest Part of the Forest was (half of) the romance. At first it appeared that there would be multiple love triangles (yes, there is potential for two of them) but luckily that was fairly quickly sidestepped. The M/M romance was perfect. I'm not sure if I can say who the romance was between without spoilers?? Hazel's romance was a bit more lackluster.

And that's really the world to describe my feelings about this book as a whole: lackluster. The story was interesting and the atmosphere was a bit creepy, a lot like The Cruel Prince. Some of the characters were interesting and one of the two romances was really swoony, but the book overall didn't wow me like The Cruel Prince did. This book dragged to the point that the audiobook actually expired before I could finish listening to it and I had to wait until it was available again to hear the ending. Even when things did pick up, there wasn't any real urgency. It seemed as if the characters just strolled through the story.

The Darkest Part of the Forest was just an okay read for me. After The Cruel Prince I had extremely high expectations for Holly Black's other books and this one just didn't do it for me. While there were parts of it that were enjoyable, I didn't feel any excitement about it. Of course I'll be finishing the Folk of the Air series (I'm SO excited for The Wicked King!), but I'm not sure whether I'll be in any rush to read more of Holly Black's backlist.