The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The tiny town of Fairfold teeters right on the border between the human and faerie worlds, and its inhabitants know it. On one side of this border are the local public high school, the general store, the partying teenagers, the clueless tourists; on the other side are vicious monsters made of twigs and dirt, goblins who bathe in human blood, and a horned prince lying dormant in the middle of the woods. Not your typical story-book creatures, these faeries, but, as long as they’re not provoked, they’re willing to live in a fragile balance with their human neighbors—until local teenager Hazel and her brother Ben, wishful monster hunters extraordinaire, upset that balance beyond repair. Holly Black’s masterful world-building is on display in the court of the faerie king (modeled off the legendary German Erlkönig) and on the ominous small-town streets of Fairfold, but the novel’s real creativity lies in the intersection between the two worlds. The border separating the humans and faeries, it becomes clear, is frighteningly porous, and the influence of faerie magic in Fairfold is stronger than its inhabitants would like to admit… Black never relinquishes nuance in her characters in favor of plot, and as a result the novel feels neither simplistic nor rushed. Here is YA fantasy at its best: a world that seems as real as, or realer than, our own.