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Holly Black – Tithe

April 29, 2008

59. Tithe by Holly Black (2002)
Modern Tales of Faerie, Book 1

Length: 331 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Started: 28 April 2008
Finished: 29 April 2008

Summary: Kaye Fierch has been playing with faeries that no one else could see since she was young, but she hadn’t seen any since she moved to Philadelphia with her mom when she was twelve. Now they’re back staying with her grandmother, and back too are the fairies: not only her childhood playmates, but also a dangerously beautiful faerie knight named Roiben, who Kaye saves from an arrow during a rainy night. And the faeries have a task for Kaye, who is not, as she’s always thought, the weird human high-school drop-out, but is rather a changeling, a pixie, living under a glamor for most of her life. For the time has come for the sept-annual Tithe: the sacrifice of a single human to bind the solitary Faerie Folk to the Unseelie Court, a kingdom of dark power and darker amusements… and her childhood friends want Kaye to be that sacrifice.

Review: Since I read The Spiderwick Chronicles first, I knew Holly Black had a good grip of the traditions and conventions of Faerie and the fey folk. However, reading that children’s series did NOT prepare me for Tithe – it is wonderfully dark, gritty, and with enough sexual overtones, swearing, and violence that it’s not for really for the younger YA set (I’d say maybe 14-and-up?). The language is well-turned, and brutally dark – it’s economical but still conveys the otherworldliness of Kaye & Roiben’s first meeting, Kaye’s panic at realizing she’s not human, and the horrors of the Unseelie Court with to-the-bone precision. The story moves along at a quick pace, drawing the reader in, although towards the end it moves from “quick” to “rushed”, and the tangle of loyalties, plots, and counter-agents isn’t quite explained as clearly as it could have been, leaving the reader (well, me) a little confused. Still, it’s compelling reading that drew me in enough that I’ll be picking up the sequels. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: No glitter and faerie dust here, but fans of dark fantasy, urban fantasy, or anyone who’s looking for an antidote to the typical sticky-sweet fairy tale will dive right into this book.

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First Line: Kaye took another drag on her cigarette and dropped it into her mother’s beer bottle.

Vocab:

  • p. 126: “Its color was not so much black, but an emerald so deep that it looked black. And the nacreous eyes were gleaming like pearls.” – consisting of or resembling mother-of-pearl; having a play of lustrous rainbow colors.
    .
  • p. 158: “The knight sighed. “Nothing. Providing that you leave the brugh immediately.”” – the inside of a faerie mound or hill.
    .

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