Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms – a struggle that could very well mean her death.
Considering that I’ve read this at least twice before, albeit about 15 years ago, I remembered surprisingly little about the story apart from a few select scenes some of which were even a little jumbled in my mind. So in a way, this was like reading it for the first time and what can I say, I still really like it, though I’m not quite as fervently in love with it now as I was back then.
This is like a fever dream, which is fitting for a faerie story – and no one does faeries quite like Holly Black. I adore how deliciously dark this is – definitely unusual for YA novels back then and I feel even today. These faeries are stunningly beautiful and rotten to the core, they change their minds and tempers like a leaf directions in the wind, they love playing games and hurting each other but humans in particular. And there are all the different types of them, from those resembling humans to those that have more in common with nature than human form. In general, there’s just a lot of darkness, death, and lust in this book, creating an atmosphere that’s just my cup of tea. And a lot is happening – no rest for the wicked!
I always liked Kaye because she has a good heart, a reasonably quick mind, a touch of morbidness, and she’s definitely not one of those overpowered heroines. Her reality is pretty harsh to begin with with her erratic mother and ever nagging grandmother as well as the general living circumstances of herself and her friends. I like how fiercely loyal she is to her faerie friends and how she plays with her power, even though it’s sometimes twisted, especially in regards to Kenny, but she’s not human after all.
I also really like the side characters. Aloof and conflicted Roiben had me in a wicked grasp since I’m a sucker for that type of character. And shame on me, I had totally forgotten about Corny and Nephamael even though that part of the story is pretty hardcore. And then there’s a multitude of interesting faerie characters – the kelpie is the one I most vividly remembered and his part, albeit small, is definitely one that you cannot forget easily and perfectly highlights the nature of Holly’s faeries.
As a side note: This book is 20 years old and in some regards, it didn’t age well, for example language wise (some racist words though I can only judge the translation, it might be different in the original English) and of course it’s lacking in technology, but that’s something I don’t miss.
I’m quite excited to tackle Valiant, which I’ve never read before, and then continue to make my way through all of Holly Black’s faerie books.