The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black
Publishing Year: 2015
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Reading Level: YA
Time: Present Day
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…
Let me preface this review by saying I had never read something by Holly Black other than The Spiderwich Chronicles before picking up this book. Much like that series, this young adult fantasy standalone is beautiful, a little scary, and everything fairytales are made of. We got 90% of the story told from the perspective of sixteen year old Hazel Evans.
Hazel and her brother Ben live in an east coast town called Fairfold. This town like no other, is home to humans and a group of fairies the locals call the Folk. Tourists come from all over the county to see the Folk, and experience the town’s magic. Its biggest attraction is the horned fairy prince asleep inside a magical glass coffin in the middle of the woods. The boy has been there for decades but no one has ever woken him from his magical slumber, or left so much as a scratch on his coffin for that matter. That is until one day a group of tourists come by & he is gone!
Throughout this almost 400 page tomb we also learn about Ben & his once awe inspiring talent for music that was gifted to him by an elf. Ben is gay and has been in love with the prince in the coffin for as long as he can remember. Ben’s best friend Jack is a changeling. Changelings are Folk children that resemble human children so they can be switched at a young age. Jack however is not given back to the Folk when his brother Carter is taken. Instead their mother raises them as twins despite the fact that Jack has magical powers & pointed ears.
Together Jack, Ben, Hazel, and the horned boy we learn is named Severin must battle the Alderking and “the monster” in the woods. These unlikely heroes that grew up playing knights in the forest find out that fairytales and bedtime stories are real and if they don’t do something to stop the Folk their town will fall to ruin.
Hazel must face a choice she made years ago when she bargained with the Alderking. Jack has to decide if he belongs in the human world or with his own kind. And Ben must find the courage to overcome the creatures hiding in the darkest part of the forest…