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Holly Black – Valiant

February 8, 2010

11. Valiant by Holly Black (2005)
Modern Tales of Faerie, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. Tithe

Length: 316 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Started: 28 January 2009
Finished: 29 January 2009

Where did it come from? Christmas present from a friend.
Why do I have it? See above; but it was on my wishlist after reading Tithe.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 December 2008.

Don’t do drugs, mmmkay?
Especially not if they
come from the fey folk.

Summary: When Val catches her boyfriend in one of the worst possible acts of betrayal, she heads into New York City, for what was supposed to be a date night, on her own. Once there, she realizes she can’t bring herself to go home again, and winds up falling in with a group of street kids. They sleep in the subway tunnels, inject strange drugs, and – get this – believe that faeries are real. But slowly, Val starts to believe that they’re right… not only are faeries real, but they’re everywhere. And, what’s more, someone has been murdering New York’s fae… and Val has managed to get herself right in the middle of it.

Review: Valiant is to Tithe what Ink Exchange was to Wicked Lovely. It’s a semi-sequel set in the same world, but with new characters, and only brief cameos from the characters that we became invested in during the first book. It stars a teenaged girl who’s been scarred and broken and is determined to take control of her own life. She’s human, but she gets caught up in the world of the faeries, in large part due to some kind of magical substance that gets under her skin with a needle. She gets in over her head, must find her way out, in part with the help of one of the fey who has fallen for her, but mostly by finding her own strength, etc., etc. And, while Valiant was published first, I read it second, so I wound up feeling like I’d heard all of it before.

The pacing of Valiant also wound up feeling a little off to me. I guess the structure of the first half being mostly character development and the second half being mostly plot is not all that unusual, but my problem was that I didn’t particularly like Val all that much, so the first half felt like it dragged on. Once the plot, and the mystery, and the action started up, the rest of the book flew by, but it took me a while to get really invested. People who can identify more with Val probably won’t have the same problem, but she just struck me like the kind of person who in real life would make me roll my eyes in exasperation pretty much constantly.

Another purely personal preference that cost this book a few points was its treatment of New York City. NYC seems like it’s prone to this reverential treatment among fiction authors, more than other cities, where it becomes a character in its own right. I’ve seen it handled well on rare occasions, but usually I just wind up finding it annoying… I mean, I don’t live there, so please don’t name-drop random parks and streets and neighborhoods and expect that to mean something to me. Again, this is totally a personal thing, but… it’s just a city, you know?

Anyways, Valiant wasn’t a bad book by any means; it had a lot of the same grim, dark, brutal characteristics and easy readability that made Tithe such a welcome antidote to the typical sparkly charming faerie stories. Still, it didn’t entirely recapture the magic of its predecessors, mostly due to characters I didn’t care for and a plot that didn’t get going until a little too late. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you loved Tithe, then Valiant is probably worth your while as well, although since it does involve totally different characters, it could just as easily stand on its own. If you liked but didn’t love Tithe, then Valiant is not as necessary but still probably worth reading, as long as you’re aware that it’s not a direct continuation of Kaye and Roiben’s story.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: 3 Evil Cousins, Avid Book Reader, The Book Bind, My Fluttering Heart, Tiny Little Reading Room, Wands and Worlds
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning.

Cover Thoughts: Dark and dirty and bleak and bleary and gorgeous. The sword is not like I pictured it, but pretty nevertheless.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 9:23 am

    I don’t read much fantasy, so I suspect this is not for me. My sister would probably love it, though.

    • February 11, 2010 12:59 pm

      bermudaonion – Sounds like a birthday present in the making!

  2. February 8, 2010 11:07 am

    Yeah, what you said! Then I wasn’t sure when I was done whether I was annoyed most by the treatment of NYC, and by Val as a corollary because she had the same attitude; or found Val and the whole “New York is the only REAL city” thing annoying for their own separate reasons. Val’s gritty maturity felt forced to me. Actually, Tithe was published first. I wondered if that didn’t explain some of the differences between the two books–the scramble to provide a sequel.

    • February 11, 2010 1:00 pm

      trapunto – “Val’s gritty maturity” is a good way to put it, although I didn’t think that she was actually being mature, so much as making decisions, even if they’re bad ones, and pretending that by doing so, that made her mature.

      Also, what I mean by “published first” was in comparison to Ink Exchange. Sorry for the confusion!

  3. February 8, 2010 3:23 pm

    Valiant looks wonderful! Enjoy!

  4. February 8, 2010 10:08 pm

    You better read Ironside if you want to find out what happened to Roiben and Kaye :)

    • February 11, 2010 1:02 pm

      lightheaded – I did! And it was better than Valiant, in my opinion.

  5. February 12, 2010 4:46 pm

    Just have to say that I always love the haiku, but especially this one! Also I liked Tithe and Ironside better than this middle one. Val has a cameo appearance in City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare.


  1. Spoilers and Nuts: Valiant by Holly Black

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