It's bad enough to know that your mom was a faery, and that she faked her own death. But for Rue Silver, this is only one of many problems that crop up in "Kith," the second volume of Holly Black's Good Neighbors trilogy -- there's also the slowly encroaching world of the fae, her ruthless grandfather, and her splintering gang of friends. This graphic novel suffers from a bit of "middle book syndrome," but its horrific undertones keep it interesting.
Rue is understandably worried. Not only is her fey mom alive and somewhere else, but her boyfriend Dale has become strangely distant (and we soon see why), her little gang is splintering, and faery creatures are still appearing on behalf of her granddad Aubrey. Then Birch and Tam bring news of a bigger problem that Aubrey has created -- he's starting to cordon off the city, and intends to cast a spell that will make it unfindable to the human world.
And one night she's drawn into a faery realm by the shadow of her mother, showing her the first glimpse of this strange and addictive world of dancing, magic and eerie heartlessness. But Rue hasn't forgotten her cruel grandfather's scheme, or the terrible things that are happening to her friends -- including one who has been transformed into a tree. And as the time of Aubrey's plan approaches, Rue finds that she may be
If "Kin" was all about Rue discovering her half-fae nature, then "Kith" is all about Rue struggling with the two halves of herself -- the wild dark fey half, and the more rational human half which knows that what her grandfather is doing is horrible. Aside from that, Holly Black's focus is definitely more on the encroaching world of faeries than on Rue's human life -- her eerie mother, the world "under the hill" and haunted forests with nymph-infested pools.
The tone also becomes far darker in this story: shadowy caverns, ghastly grinning monsters, Tam Lin's sorrowful backstory, a girl whose heart is full of vines and leaves, and Aubrey's plan for the human world. And Black's dialogue blends together the mundane teenspeak and the otherworldly voice of the faeries ("My lady, I see your shadow has found you. And something else has found you, betimes"). The only real problem that the plot is rather scattered in focus until the climax -- a common problem in "middle books."
And Ted Naifeh's artwork suits the story as well -- pretty realistic faces and bodies, but with spiky fingers, shadowy forests, and creatures that are just a little inhuman (Nia's glinting empty eyes and wide smile).
Rue is a likable heroine with a common fantasy problem: she's half fae and half human, and so obviously she's feeling a tug'o'war between the two worlds. On the one hand she obviously loves the beauty and magic of the fae world, but her human conscience can't condone what they're doing (and longs for her family to reunite). And she's struggling with problems afflicting her "kith" -- romantic cheating, faerie pendants, and a friend whose transformation leads to a horrific change.
"The Good Neighbors: Kith" has a bit of middle-book syndrome, but flowers slowly even as the storyline becomes darker. And what comes next from Holly Black ought to be interesting.