“The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

20958632Reviewed by Ealish Waddell

 For generations, the horned boy has lain in his glass coffin deep in the woods outside Fairfold. The townspeople party around him and tourists come to gawk and take selfies, but nothing ever rouses him from his enchanted sleep. Hazel and her brother Ben have each grown up at least half in love with the horned boy and the magic and mystery he represents, even though they know quite well just how dangerous such things can be — for Fairfold is a town living an uneasy truce with the magical beings that dwell all around it, and not all the Fair Folk are benign.

 Hazel and Ben always wanted to be heroes. With her sword and his music, they’ve already vanquished several bad fae between them. But time and tragedy have worn away at their ambition, if not their bond. Then, one autumn day, the horned boy wakes up.

 Unlike the gentle prince of their romantic daydreams, this boy is a dangerous stranger, on the run from the malevolent Alderking. A terrifying monster is stalking him and the town, and desperate for a scapegoat, Fairfold is turning on its own. The truce is breaking down. In order to save their friends and family, Hazel and Ben must become those long-ago heroes again and confront the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other — and, especially, the ones they’re keeping from themselves.

 Holly Black has a knack for depicting the kind of world that the reader yearns to be a part of, and yet is also rather grateful not to be. Her fairies are the deliciously creepy kind: inscrutable, amoral, alluring, dangerous. Pairing this ancient tradition with modern human relationships that are complex yet relatable, “Forest” is a satisfying work of standalone urban fantasy: rich, bold and thoroughly compelling.

 “The Darkest Part of the Forest” is appropriate for readers ages 13 – 17.

(c) 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.