After months of being able to type almost as much as I’d like to, my wrists have flared up to the point where I’m back to using Dragon even for relatively short things. I’m using it for this post, so I apologise for any errors. It’s frustrating, but I know I need to practice with it before I sit my first year exams, which I will almost certainly need to do using dictation because I just can’t write for three hours.
I’ve got pretty complacent about my body recently. When I can do most things for a period of time, the safety net I have set up for when my shoulders randomly dislocate sort of wears away, so that when they do I can barely remember how to put them back in place. Yep, that happened to me last week.
But this isn’t actually a post about my hypermobility being stupid. I feel like I’ve done nothing but talk about myself recently, and while this is my blog and my life is dominated by my health at times, it’s not actually what I set out to write about. So today, I’m going to talk about books.
Specifically, I’m going to talk about “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black. It’s a new release – I pre-ordered it, and read it the day it came out, because I have absolutely no self-control and didn’t really want to work that evening. (And then I dislocated my shoulders. So I couldn’t work the next day either. I probably should have done work that evening.)
As you may be aware, I’ve been a fan of Holly Black’s writing since I was about twelve. My sister went away to university, so I had free rein over her bookshelves. One of them, a book named “Tithe”, had an advisory warning on the back that warned it had adult content. Without her there to tell me not to read it, I was understandably intrigued – the number one way to get a kid to read a book is to tell them they’re not allowed to. Not that people usually had difficulty persuading me to read things.
Anyway, I loved it. Fairies? Torture? You can tell it’s been an influence on my own writing. The decadent, alluring and dangerous world of the fey captivated me, and strongly influenced how I reacted to any book about fairies after that point.
Holly Black says that “The Darkest Part of the Forest” exists within the same world as her earlier books about fairies, although none of the characters or settings are the same. It’s got a familiar feel about it: the fairy world is described in the similar way, the various traditions and prohibitions exist, and the same vibe of danger underlies all encounters with the supernatural.
There is something about reading a book for the first time that’s completely different from reading it any of the subsequent times, unless you are like me and have a terrible memory so that occasionally you don’t even realise you’ve read something before until you get to the end. The first time has a tension and excitement that doesn’t ever exist again, and the plot twists never affect you in the same way.
I mean, personally I believe that good plot twists rely only partially on surprise, and partially on their emotional punch, so that they’re effective the second and third time as well, but it’s still not the same.
Reading this book was a little bit like reading “Tithe” for the first time. Of course I’m a different person, so the way I react to things is never going to be the same. But because the feel of the book resembles the earlier one and yet the plot was new, it was both strange and familiar, an old friend in a new place. Or perhaps a new friend in an old place, given that it’s the world that is the same and the characters who were different.
I love being given the chance to re-enter a world I thought I’d left behind. I’m a sucker for it — never quite ready to give up characters or settings. I think it’s one of the reasons that my Death and Fairies series grew so much for what I originally thought it was going to be. When I started it – I think it was just before I turned fourteen – it was one book. The one book became a trilogy. But, unable to let go a world with so much untapped potential, I wrote a prequel. The prequel turned it into an eight book series with the trilogy as the last three books. It’s my background series, the project I work on between other things, the one where scenes and ideas come to me even while I’m not working on it actively, but then mostly just go into folders to wait for my attention.
And it’s probably the series I’ve written that has been the most influenced by Holly Black, so the comparison seems apt.
I really enjoyed reading “The Darkest Part of the Forest”. I had high expectations, as I always do when a new book comes out by author whose work I love. Although I don’t think it was perfect, I’m also fairly sure that some of the things which seemed off (pacing in a couple of places) were because I read it so quickly, because of that tension I mentioned earlier, the desperation to find out what happens.
I’m glad the Holly Black has written another book about fairies. I’m glad that, in a way I associate with her, it has awesome queer characters. Okay, so I’d really like if she wrote more queer girls, because she tends to have boys instead, but I’ll take what I can get. Especially when there are fairies involved.
So yeah, I recommend it. To anyone, I guess, but particularly to those who read her earlier books and wants something with the same feel, but benefitting from her extra storytelling experience. Because I definitely feel like it’s better than those ones. She’s improved. And I love seeing the world painted in that new colour.
Have you read the book? Let me know what you thought. If you haven’t, tell me about another series that an author you like has returned to, or books set within the same world, and what that was like. :)