Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review: Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales #1)

Release Date: October 1, 2002
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Length: 310 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Welcome to the realm of very scary faeries!

Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces the sixteen-year-old back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms -- a struggle that could very well mean her death.

Newcomer Holly Black's enormously powerful voice weaves teen angst, riveting romance, and capriciously diabolical faerie folk into an enthralling, engaging, altogether original reading experience.



Protagonist: Kaye has lived most of her life moving from place to place with her less than stable mother. When she and her mother have to move back in with Kaye's grandmother, Kaye finds herself sucked (not literally) into the land of Faeries, when she saves a Faerie Knight one night. Soon she's in too deep, discovering secrets about herself that not even the rest of her family knows and putting her life on the line in a struggle between the Seelie and Unseelie fae. One of the things I love most about Kaye is that she's not your typical YA heroine. She smokes, she shoplifts, and she'll do something wrong even if she knows it's wrong. Granted, I don't want to "become" Kaye, but the flaws and complexities to her character really make her stand out, while not making her so unlikable that I don't want to root for her. In fact despite her flaws I wanted her to succeed every step of the way in this book, and regardless of where she ends up, she does not succeed at every step along the way.

Romance: Another thing that was pleasantly surprising to me is the romance in this story. It's not all consuming like the YA books published around this time always seemed to be. Instead it burns at a constant, but slow, rate that I ended up really enjoying. While Roiben isn't the perfect love interest, he comes pretty darn close and the chemistry that he and Kaye have is undeniable. These two characters start off fairly counterpointed as Roiben is much more formal and polite while Kaye... isn't. She's got a sharp tongue and she doesn't care who she stabs with it, while Roiben uses words like a fencer uses a saber, graceful and elegant. It wasn't hard to start rooting for them even before they actually started to truly tolerate each other.

World Building: FAERIES!!!! So, while I haven't been reading a lot of Faerie stories lately, I loved falling back into a world governed by dark tricksters and mischievous gremlins. While this story does begin in the modern world, and by all appearances, "our" world, it doesn't take too long for the magical mayhem to begin. This version of Faerie, as there are so many different kinds, i divided into the Seelie, Unseelie, and Solitary Fae. Considering this series is canonically part of the "Folk of the Air" trilogy, the first book of which is The Cruel Prince, I'll have to reread that book to remember how all the different parts of faerie connect. Anyway, the world Holly Black creates in this book is breathtaking, I mean, I couldn't stop wanting to see more and more of what this world held. This world is as wondrous as faerie fruit, sweet and addictive, but have too much and you may go mad!

Predictability: I was completely blown away at how unpredictable this story is. I mean, considering this book isn't exactly a spring chicken in the YA world, the fact that its story doesn't feel full of stale and thrown out tropes years later, and can still knock me off my feet at some of the twists and turns this story holds, is magnificent. Looking back I'm trying to see if there was any time when I knew for sure what would happen, and maybe it's because I haven't read very much in a while, but nothing felt obvious about this book, even when I tried to predict something, nothing felt certain.

Ending: This story has a more wrapped up ending that I expected for a trilogy. Though, that's because the next book in this series is a companion, while the "technical" sequel to this book is actually book 3. On the whole though, you could read this story as a standalone, there's enough closure to the story that I don't need to come back, though I will because I love this book and why not, but everything wraps up well for now, and I could see how waiting a while between installments could have really hurt if there wasn't as much closure as there is in this story. As for the final climax, well I'll just say that things didn't unfold how I expected them to. This isn't your typical YA final climax and the diversity in storytelling with it was a treat to behold.


Yeah, it's hard to deny that I love this book! It holds up incredibly well after sixteen years and I practically devoured every word of this brilliantly crafted tale. Honestly, I thought Holly Black grew into her writing over time, but no, she's always been this good!


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