The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. ★★★★1/2
The Darkest Part of the Forest is a darkly enchanting modern day fairy tale.
The town of Fairfold is in the middle of a forest belonging to the fae. These are fairies in the folkloric sense – dangerous tricksters who may harm or help you or both. The citizens Fairfold have long ago grown used to the presence of the fae. They send their children out with rowan charms and pockets full of graveyard dirt to keep the faeries away, and when tourists wind up dead every year, the townsfolk tell themselves it was because they didn’t know what they were doing.
And on the edge of the wood, there’s a glass coffin with a sleeping prince…
“Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass coffin. It rested right on the ground, and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives.”
The prince has slumbered for as long as Fairfold can remember until one day, the residents of the town find the coffin shattered and the prince vanished. And the awakening of the prince has brought out the monster who lives in the darkest part of the forest…
Hazel and her brother Ben are Fairfold natives who grew up telling stories of the sleeping prince and running wild in the woods. Hazel used to believe that she was a knight and Ben a great bard who together could save townspeople and tourists alike from the danger of the woods. As the worlds of the fae and Fairfold threaten to fatally collide, it is Hazel who stands in the center.
“Once, there was a girl who vowed she would save everyone in the world, but forgot herself.”
I really loved Hazel. She’s a complicated person with many memories and secrets she keeps locked away, but the girl who longed to be a knight immediately won my heart. I felt like, more than anything else, The Darkest Part of the Forest was about her and her relationship with her brother.
While Hazel is the obvious protagonist and the majority of the book focuses on her, there are a few sections from her brother Ben’s point of view. When he was a baby, a fairy woman gave him a gift for music which he cannot control. I did like Ben, but I thought that his romantic relationship was the weakest aspect of the book. His eventual boyfriend is very thinly characterized, and their relationship seems a lot like insta-love. I find it a bit hard to believe.
I love the world of the faeries interacts with Fairfold. Holly Black combines the two so seamlessly that it feels entirely natural. This combined with the wonderful, atmospheric writing is a large part of why I loved The Darkest Part of the Forest so much.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a beautifully magical book that reads like an original fairy tale.