The start of a thrilling new fantasy series from best-selling author Holly Black about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a dangerous web of royal faerie intrigue.
Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever. And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal. As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong. But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan.
Dramatic and thrilling fantasy blends seamlessly with enthralling storytelling to create a fully realised and seductive world, brim-full of magic and romance.
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On a scale of unexpected reprisals of fantasy series from La Belle Sauvage to 10, I'd put this at a solid Inkspell.
It wasn't what Ironside was to Tithe. But that's okay. Ironside had the head start of working off beloved established characters, along with a deal of all our teenage nostalgia. And what this definitely was, was a journey back to Holly Black's Faerie. That makes anything else worthwhile.
It's an unusual perspective on the previous books. Gentry high school? Well, alright. Book One is complete with an intelligent, "unattractive" girl who is actually beautiful but just doesn't know it yet, gentry jocks, and gentry queen bees. If I were a dozen years younger, I'd probably be in love with the idea of faerie school. I think, however, I'm past being this novel's target audience.
I bore with the first half of the novel (and all my flashbacks to 90s high school romcoms) because it's still a Holly Black novel. I was rewarded for my effort with Book Two, a solid return to the court intrigue, politics, and barely-worked-out-at-the-last-minute mysteries of Tithe and Ironside. It got dark-- very dark. Let's be honest, that's when we all love Holly Black most.
As for the new main protagonist, Jude: firstly it's written in first person present like Holly Black's other novel (of many), The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I was initially conflicted about the style change, but once the novel, and Jude herself, came into their own (going to those dark places), I started to enjoy it.
In a contest with Kaye or Corny, Jude is fonder of idiot ball catch. There was one notable moment in the second half which had me complaining bitterly in real time to my beleaguered friends. Granted, if I were fifteen years old I'd probably have squealed like a pig. But I was proved a doubting Thomas by the end, as the tired old chestnuts were neatly subverted and avoided one by one. Jude got there in the end, even if she was a bit late to the party. (The twist was pretty obvious. I was growing frustrated at her for not working it out.) And the plot resolved itself in bleak, fun, thoroughly satisfying fashion.
There's a number of directions this new series could go in from here. I read Tithe when I was about eleven years old and frankly it shaped me as a person, so I'll buy the next books regardless. I'm hoping for some more than others. I'm particularly hoping that we're going to get to maintain the bleak and bittersweet note we finished this one on.
I can't leave without saying something about the narrator. Her cadence is soothing, and that's something. Her lack of clear vocal modulation between the first person narrative and the dialogue made for a number of confusing scenes where even now I'm not sure what was thought, and what was said.
Her decision to give the court gentry ladies obnoxious valley girl accents was at best questionable. Her decision to give, of all people, Kaye a nasal Gretchen Wieners whine had me fairly grinding my teeth. Her default smooth male voice sounded a lot like the gay nerd who's actually a lord in Swordspoint as read by the author, which was entertaining in a number of ways. Imagine Roiben drawling that he's always cold, in that voice.
It's worth the read. Go out and get the dead tree version.