Top critical review
Nothing amazing or unique, but still a fun urban fantasy read with a dark and gritty edge
on 14 January 2015
I recently read a short story by Holly Black that blew me away, so I was really looking forward to reading one of her full length books. I enjoyed this and read through it quickly, but I was a bit underwhelmed.
There are two main things that separate this story of a girl dragged into an ancient conflict between two warring fairy courts from the average teen paranormal romance/urban fantasy.
First, the realistic bits and the female lead are very gritty - there's trailer parks and shoplifting and smoking and swearing. Our heroine is a high school dropout. From what I've seen in reviews, lots of readers are either offended by this or love its edginess. I was fairly ambivalent, but I appreciated the fact that the author had gone for a slightly unusual setting and characters.
Second, in a similar vein, the world of Faerie is incredibly dark (particularly for a YA book though even for an adult book) with all sorts of tortures and cruelties and depravities. I thought this bit was well done, with a real sense of both magic and danger created.
Beyond that though, the book felt a bit "same old same old" with a human girl who turns out to be special and a dark-but-sexy non-human love interest. Don't get me wrong, I love that sort of plot, and I still think authors can do new and interesting things with it, but here, there was nothing that really captured my imagination. For me, this type of book stands or fails on the strength of the love interest, and though Roiben-the-hot-Faerie had an interesting back story and internal conflict, he just didn't leave me besotted and swooning. Equally, I just couldn't quite understand the relationship that developed.
I liked some of the plotting and politicking, but some parts of the plot didn't quite work for me. In particular, it seemed a little inconsistent about what Kaye knew at any given time and a little all over the place in terms of some supporting characters' motivations and loyalties. The idea that Kaye had seen fairies since she was little rather than discovering their existence as a teenager was an interesting one, but it sometimes almost made me feel like I was missing a first volume, or at least a prologue, and sometimes made her a bit too blase about the whole thing.
Overall then, I wasn't wowwed, but this was still a fun read with a dark and gritty edge, and I'm giving the sequel a chance.