I enjoyed this story, but it felt a bit like it had been rushed, while the plot was interesting it felt as if a few of the characters had been underdeveloped. On top of this the story for the most part followed one person but then for a handful of chapters would switch to one or two others. It seems like the author hadn't figured out a way to tell the story file on a single point of view, and instead of adapting to be a multi point of view story, or finding a way to tell it just from Hazels perspective, just gave up and shoved a few chapters in from Ben and Jacks perspective, which I found jarring.
I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ - Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.
I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.
The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.
Hazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, despatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.
Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.
Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.
Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.
A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.
Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?