When seventeen-year-old Valerie runs away to New York City, she’s trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city’s labyrinthine subway system.
But there’s something eerily beguiling about Val’s new friends. And when one talks Val into tracking down the lair of a mysterious creature with whom they are all involved, Val finds herself torn between her newfound affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.
And Holly Black does it again: another pitch black faerie story – even more so than the first due to the choice of topics! It’s pretty much all about use and abuse – of power, of people, of drugs, you name it – with characters that find themselves in a very murky grey. So it’s not a particularly comfortable read, but definitely an interesting one …
I didn’t really like any of the characters. They were complicated, and troubled, and did things I found extremely iffy. One topic I always struggle with when it features heavily in a story is drugs (and alcohol) since I don’t get the appeal and always have a hard time understanding. Drugs feature heavily here and it’s the magical kind that gives the characters manipulative powers. Their drug induced sprees were the most difficult to read since they turned into what they loathe the faeries for: haughty creatures that play with those that are helpless against them. Not only did they destroy property, they also toyed with fellow humans and their lives, which ultimately leads to tragedy.
Nevertheless, I found a begrudging truce with Valerie. The situation she’s thrown into does justify her going for a drastic change. So I understood most of her actions and the reasoning behind them though I couldn’t condone them. I really couldn’t warm up to Lolli, Dave, and Luis though. Their relationship alone was so freaking complicated and disturbing. Ravus, on the other hand, was the most interesting character. Unfortunately, he stayed superficial, which was too bad. I also found the development of the relationship between him and Val lacking.
The setting is definitely even grittier than that of the first book. Run-down, dirty, derelict, desperate – the underbelly of the city, which perfectly lends itself to a story such as this. I immensely enjoyed the faeries and how they integrated into this setting that goes so much against their very existence since it’s absolutely toxic to them. They are outcasts, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their conflicting loyalties and agendas and it definitely doesn’t cut back on their cruel nature. I only wish there could have been a little more murder mysteries and a little less drugs in the plot.
One major let-down was the ending, which just felt super rushed. It was nice to get a glimpse of Roiben and Kaye, but I wish the situation would have been resolved either differently or given more room to breathe. It all went down rather easy breezy considering Val’s level of experience and the fact she was going against faeries. I’m also not sure I’m happy with Val’s decision regarding her mum.