Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Tithe by Holly Black

Title: Tithe
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2004

Kaye isn’t your average teen. At the age of sixteen, she’s seen the inside of more bars than she can be remembered, and follows her rocker mother around from venue to venue. This is until one night when her mother is attacked, and Kaye finds herself back at her grandmother’s while her parent tries to get her life back on track.

This is when we discover that Kaye is no stranger to the supernatural. She grew up in the company of so-called “imaginary” friends that were no other than faeries, and she is drawn into a world of magic that exists beyond the mundane reality she had taken for granted.

A chance encounter with a wounded warrior in a forest has unexpected repercussions as Kaye uncovers her past and the many layers of deception. She discovers herself in the middle of a power struggle between two faerie courts with her as a lynchpin in an ages-old struggle.

First off, I must say that this novel stands head and shoulders above some of what’s landed on my desk. There is no stereotypical love triangle or wimpy female protagonist at the whim of her alpha male love interest and his beta. Kaye is dreamy yet resilient. She’s not the good girl next door. Even better, she has a malicious edge to her, which is kept in check by her sense of justice.

There is nothing nice about the faeries in this novel. They’re neither good nor bad, which I absolutely adored. Roiben, a somewhat unwilling knight in service to the Unseelie queen, is the main love interest. Yes, his good looks and the slightly insta-desire that springs between him and Kaye is a little on the obvious side but Black handles it well. Not once does it feel forced.

The rather geeky (and human) Cornelius plays second fiddle to Roiben but, for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into too much detail except to say that I enjoyed the interplay between him and Kaye immensely—the seeds of a genuine friendship are sown here.

The setting is absolutely fantastic. Black truly succeeds in painting a vivid landscape down to the tarnished sequins and rotten apples. If anything, read this novel for the descriptions. The world-building is lush without being heavy-handed.

I can’t find much to fault this novel. There were perhaps one or two scenes where I felt the author rushed a little and some details could have been clarified but it was easy to forgive her for writing fast. This is a lovely story that remains somewhat gritty and scratchy behind the eyes, and is unsentimental.

If faeries are your thing, read this one. I’ll close with my favourite line:

Waves tossed themselves against the shore, dragging grit and sand between their nails as they were slowly pulled back out to sea.

How can one not love prose like that?

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