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Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie is the second novel in Holly Black’s, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Modern Tale of Faerie series. However, this can easily be read as a stand-alone book.

Though Kaye Fierch and Roiben, the now King of the Unseelie Court, do make an appearance toward the end of the novel (for spoilery reasons), they are not the main focus. Instead, we are introduced to a new heroine, Valerie Russell, or Val.

Val is a athletic tomboy who has an affinity for video games and lives with her single mother (or at least Val thought she was single.)

 

There’s a reason for this.

Val and Kaye are very different protagonists, while Kaye was flighty and could be irresponsible at times, Val is very reserved and ungber-repsonsible.  Also, while Kaye had known about faeries her whole life, Val has no idea of her existence, making more of a culture shock when she finds out their existence.

Anyway, so Valerie is supposed to go a hockey game with her boyfriend, but he’s running late.

 

Brace yourselves for some awful.

So, she leaves without him a little peeved, but then changes her mind and goes back to her house to wait for him, only to find her boyfriend and her mom in the throws of passion.

 

Seriously though, eww.

Seriously, eww.

Alright, here’s the deal guys: I’m not going to lie, but I’m a bit torn about this scene. On one hand, this is a really good way to get our good-two-shoes protagonist to run off to where almost the entire rest of the story takes place. On the other hand, doesn’t this scene seem a little… I don’t know… soap-operay?

So that happens. And Val runs away to a not-so-nice part of the Big Apple, where she shaves her head and joins a group of squatters, Luis, who has the ability to see through faerie glamour, his brother Dave, and a girl named Lolli. It turns out that the squatters are actually delivery people for a troll named Ravus, who makes healing potions for the faeries that are forced to live in the city.

But just when Val starts to get used to this life, and just when she starts to truly befriend the troll, tragedy strikes in the community of exiled faeries that pulls Val and her new friends in the middle of the conflict.

 

Well. That was interesting.

I think that my favorite part of the book was when Val encounters her first faerie. She’s with Dave, who’s one of the squatters, and they knock on the door. It’s answered by a satyr. It’s one of those read-it-too-fast-and-you’ll-miss-it type deals. It’s surprising and a little funny.

This next bit may be a little spoilery, but there are flavors of “Beauty and the Beast” among the dark faerie conspiracies. Not to say it’s a straight reinterpretation, that’s just what I thought of when reading this book.

And now that we’re on the topic, Holly Black’s Modern Tales of Faerie series are Teenage Paranormal Romance Novels. Fortunately, they are on the better side of scale of books. The romance here is naturally and makes sense (considering the rules of the universe). Also, the couple isn’t spending every other page telling each other how fantastic the other person is while the wind blows through their hair and a single tear falls out of their eye from the mere thought of losing one another.

Though it has elements of horror and romance, this book is a mystery more than anything else. And I going to be honest here, I didn’t see it coming. I love any mystery that has a surprising twist that still made a lot of sense. And this book had that.

My only real complaint about the book is that the third act went very fast.  I felt like it was a little bit rushed.

Overall, I really liked Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie. Granted, nothing blew me away, but overall, I thought it was a very nicely written book. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie is the first out of three “modern faerie tales” by gothic fantasy author Holly Black. She also co-wrote The Spiderwick Chronicles, which was a fairly dark and spooky series for young children. She is also kind of awesome.

The novel starts off with a bang, with one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read in a Teenage Paranormal Romance Novel.

“Kaye took another drag on her cigarette and dropped it into her mother’s beer bottle. She figured that would be a good test for how drunk Ellen was- see if she would swallow a butt whole.”

In two sentences Black establishes Kaye’s home situation, along with Kaye’s somewhat jaded view on the world. And stuff like that punctuates the entire novel: little unconventional details that bring a cool and creepy gothic style to the book.

It’s here where we meet our protagonist, Kaye Fierch, an fifteen year-old, fairly odd “modern nomad”, who lives with her mother, Ellen, an aging singer whose still trying to find success singing in New York nightclubs. After Ellen’s boyfriend attacks her after a gig, she and Kaye move in with Ellen’s domineering mother, the place where Kaye spent most of her childhood.

Kaye, in her childhood home, begins to look around for her “imaginary friends”, a trio of Tinkerbell style faeries. Spike, Lutie-loo, and Gristle had only appeared to her when she was little, and though Kaye never thought they were a figment of her imagination, it became clearer to her when she was older that they couldn’t have been real.

At least, that what’s she thought. On her way home from a completely disastrous reunion with some old friends. most notably her best friend from childhood Janet Stone, Kaye comes across a fairy knight by the name of Roiben, who’s a lot more like a Tolkien elf than the faeries she knew as a young girl. Roiben has been severely injured by some other faeries and Kaye helps him get back to the river where he can get home. In return, Roiben promises to answer three questions truthfully.

Basically, the first half of the book is things happening to Kaye and her reacting to it. I’m not saying she’s an inactive character, because toward the end of the novel she does actively fight the forces against her. However, in this case it works because the reader is learning more about the faerie world as Kaye is.

I’m just going to take a moment and say how much I like Kaye as a character. Kaye is very well-rounded character: she’s very clever and has her own code of honor (for example: Kaye is an admitted shop-lifter, but she only steals from big mega-stores where the employees don’t care anyway). Though she’s a generally good person, and a character that the reader does want to succeed, she does have flaws noted by the author. By that, I mean she has flaws that the author created, not ones that appeared when the author tried to make her a perfect character (such as Bella Swan, the most famous example of this unfortunately prevalent problem in YA fiction). Kaye also has a tendency to make very rash decisions that she regrets later in the novel.

Back to the plot: Kaye is board one day, but can’t hang out at home because she doesn’t want to tell her grandmother that she dropped out of school. So, she decides to visit her friend, Janet’s brother, Corny, at his job.

Oh my god, Corny. He’s a fringe outcast who is steps away from taking out an AK-47 and murdering everyone in the vicinity. And it shows. I don’t know if Black meant for him to be this unnerving, but he is. Oh, and he’s gay. That really doesn’t have to do with anything else I just said, it’s just fairly important to the plot.

Corny and Kaye become friends over Corny’s collection of comic books. However, when Janet comes home from school, she and Kaye go meet some of Janet’s friends at a diner. And guess who’s also at said diner?

Yep, it’s Roiben. He’s here so Kaye can cash in on her three questions and she has the brilliant idea to ask him his real name.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with faerie lore, if someone knows a faerie’s true name, they can control them. So, Roiben’s not happy about this.

Later that night, Kaye goes into the woods behind her home, where her faerie friends reveal to her that she is one of them, and pull her in to a plot to set them free from the constricting binds of the Faerie Courts.

 

In case it wasn’t clear earlier, when the cover of the book says faerie tales, it’s talking about

these kinds of faeries

And because of that, this book get veeeeerrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy dark.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend it, if you do want to read it, just be aware of the subject matter, as it includes: severe language, use of drugs and alcohol, and an implied rape.

As for the rape, it’s not graphic. In fact, I would say that it’s almost as tasteful as a scene of that nature could be.

Despite that, I thought Holly Black’s Tithe was a very well-written, very scary, and very cool pseudo-horror story that I very much enjoyed.

Also, apparently there is a movie adaptation in the works. I’ve tried looking up information, but so far all I’ve found is that it is currently in pre-production and is being done by the Jim Henson company. If there is any more information, please feel free to comment below.

 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

 

Another thing: usually after I read a book I’ve enjoyed, I’ll look up reviews of it to see what other people have thought of it. For this one, there seemed to be three main camps: people who loved it, people who thought it was ok, and people who thought that this book was trash because it uses strong language and has Kaye and the other characters doing things that many people wouldn’t really want teenagers to do, such as drinking and being in sexual situations. Most of these were along the lines of “Why would someone let their child read this, it’s going to make them want to do it, etc.”

Now, I’m as straight-edged as they come, and frankly, reading this book hasn’t changed that, and I doubt it’ll be different for anyone else. Seriously, reading a book that has kids drinking isn’t going  to make them an alcoholic, but putting limitations on what they are allowed to read is going to make them rebel.

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Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Killing Mr. Griffin is by Lois Duncan, who’s famous for writing suspense novels for teens. She also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I have to admit, this is not the type of book I usually read, but I am so glad I picked it up.

The book is about a very strict English teacher, the titular Mr. Griffin. He’s the kind of teacher who doesn’t accept late work and believes that getting an A means you wrote a perfect paper, and since no one can write a perfect paper, no one makes an A. Ever. This doesn’t exactly make him popular with the students.

Literally the first time Mr. Griffin is introduced, he is giving a failing grade to a student who lost his homework assignment on the way to class.  I think most of us had that teacher who thought his class was more important than anything else, so I feel like a whole lot of people can totally empathized with the students in his class… at first.

After a particularly harsh event in which Mr., Griffin gives half the class failing grades on a homework assignment, some of the more popular kids get the idea to teach him a lesson.

 

Get this: they decide to teach that the best way to get back at Mr. Griffin is by kidnapping him and threatening to kill him if he doesn’t start grading easier.

 

I have a feeling there were better ways to go about this.

There is really no main character, unless you count Mr. Griffin, and even he is out of the picture pretty fast and becomes a more omniscient being than an actual character.  That being said, the book mostly revolves around the group of students that kidnap Griffin.

The group of students are:

Mark Kinney: the ringleader of the group. He has a special grudge against Mr. Griffin, due to his humiliation when Mr. Griffin recognized one of his papers as one written by another student back when Mr. Griffin taught at a university. He’s also really freaking creepy, and it’s implied that he may is a psychopath.

Jeff Garrett: an athlete and Mark’s best friend. Well, it’s probably  more accurate to say that he’s Mark’s yes man, since he just goes along with whatever Mark says. He’s sick of Mr. Griffin’s impossible standards.

Betsy Kline: the head cheerleader, whose used to getting her way and is not afraid to destroy other people to get it. She also has a crush on Mark and will follow along to anything he says, even though she’s dating Jeff. Mr. Griffin is the first teacher in her life that didn’t succumb to her charms.

David Ruggles: The president of the senior class and responsible to a fault. His beef with Mr. Griffin comes from the bad grades he’s getting just before he’s applying to college.

So, these kids form a plan to kidnapped their teacher and they decide that they need someone Mr. Griffin wouldn’t expect to lure him out where they can jump the poor guy. They decide to enlist in the help of Susan McConnell, a very intelligent and lonely junior who has an inferiority complex and a crush on David.

 

She was played by the Pink Power Ranger in the movie adaptation. That’s not relevent to anything, I just think it’s cool.

They get Susan to agree to the plan, and it’s at this point in which Duncan does an absolutely brilliant way of making completely humanizing Mr. Griffin. After a few chapters of seeing Mr. Griffin be a complete jerk to the students, we get a chapter in the point of view of Kathy Griffin, his wife.

And I will admit, I was on the kids side at first. Granted, I didn’t think that this was the best way to go about things, but between my personal experiences with a teacher like Mr., Griffin and the way he was portrayed until that point, I thought that the guy had it coming. But then I read that chapter.

In an instant, Mr. Griffin went from being an irredeemable jerkface to a well-rounded and sympathetic character, all from seeing him in the point of view of someone who knew him from somewhere else but the classroom. Kathy Griffin was my favorite character in the book. Her devotion to her husband and ability to cut through the kids crap and find out the truth was amazing.

Essentially, the rest of the book is the students having to deal with the consequences of their actions as the truth of what happened becomes more and more exposed to the authorities.

 

This book was amazing. The characters were either wonderfully unlikeable or fantastically flawed. It was suspenseful and sometimes scary and all-around well done.  It was well-paced and gave you enough detail so that you were on the same page as the students, but still alluded that more trouble was still around the corner.

All in all, it was very well-done and I would recommend it to anyone.

I need to read more of Lois Duncan.

 

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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Cirque du Freak: Sons of Destiny: Darren Shan (And My Overall Thoughts On the Series)

Cirque du Freak: Sons of Destiny: Darren Shan

Cirque du Freak: Sons of Destiny is the twelfth and final book in the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. It is also the third book in the Vampire Destiny trilogy.

 

You guys.

Wow. Just wow.

The  last book, Lord of the Shadows, ended with Steve Leonard revealing that Darius, the little creepy kid who turned out to be Steve’s son, was Darren’s nephew.

Also, Steve had blooded him, so he’s half-vampaneze.

And there was this moment. THIS MOMENT when Darren was going to straight-up kill Darius, but then, the PLOT TWIST happened, so now he’s confused and scared because Evanna told him that he was going to become a monster if he became the Lord of the Shadows.

Darren explains who Steve Leonard really is to Darius, who immediately switches sides. Like, immediately. Which I thought was kind of weird, considering Steve is his father and he was brain-washed to think that Darren was evil.  I just think it would take a little more than “Guess, what? Your dad’s evil!” to change his mind.

Oh, and we get this little tidbit: apparently since Darius has vampaneze blood, whenever he feeds from someone, he’ll automatically kill them.

Really? That’s just a part of their genetic make-up? There’s no way that Darius can learn to moderate his hunger? Really?

 

So, Darren and Harkat decide to tell Annie what happened to her son. Meaning, they have to tell her about the vampires and the vampaneze. Also, her brother that she thought was dead is actually a vampire who only looks a little bit older than he did when he “died”. She takes it reasonably well. And by that, I mean she faints.

So, since the vampaneze have no self-control, they decide that the best thing to do is to have Darren blood Darius so that he becomes a half-vampire. OK.  That’s cool.

Meanwhile, the members of the Cirque du Freak have been cornered in the abandoned soccer stadium, since the police think that one of them murdered Tommy Jones, Darren’s friend who was killed by Steve’s cronies in the last book.

Darren and Harkat go to the stadium to help the Cirque du Freak members. This leads to the final confrontation between Steve and Darren, the one that the series has been leading up to since the very beginning.

And were not even half way through the book.

 

I’m sure your probably wondering: what could possibly come after this?

The answer is: Thoughts on destiny and whether or not someone can avoid theirs. What happens after someone dies. What makes a person good or evil. Oh, and a giant plot twist.

Something that I always thought was interesting is that a common trend in a lot of modern literature is that authors love books. I know, that sounds really obvious. But seriously, can anyone name any work of literature in which the good guy thought reading was stupid AND didn’t learn his lesson later about how awesome books are later in the story?

Another trend is that the bad guys hate books, and this series is no exception. Mr. Tiny, who SPOILER: does become the big bad of the series, thinks that reading works of fiction is a waste of time. Darren uses this to his advantage, and even sets up the way that the whole “based on a true story” still applies, despite the events that happened earlier in the book.

All in all, this was a great ending for a pretty solid series.

 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

 

The Cirque du Freak Series: My Overall Thoughts:

Cirque du Freak reminds me of those cheesy Syfy originally movies.  The ones that are usually either so-bad-they’re-good or turn out to be hidden gems, but either way, they are generally entertaining. Overall it was fun, spooky, entertaining, and overall a relatively well-done series.

Though I will admit, Darren kind of annoyed me at first, he did grow on me. At first, I had to keep in mind that the series was meant for people younger than I am, but this ceased to be a problem later on in the series.  In fact, many of my original problems with this character vanished as Darren got older.

Though, it wasn’t absolutely terrible, I have to admit that the second trilogy, which includes Vampire Mountain, Trials of Death, and The Vampire Prince weren’t as entertaining as the rest of the series, especially Vampire Mountain.  Unfortunitly, when talking to some people I know that were familiar with the series, I found that the second trilogy pretty much ruined the series for them. However, I greatly recommend continuing on with the rest of the series, if only to read the ending.

All in all, I would recommend this series to most anyone who wants a different kind of vampire story.

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Cirque du Freak: Lord of the Shadows

Cirque du Freak: Lord of the Shadows

Cirque du Freak: Lord of the Shadows is the eleventh book in the twelve book long Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. It is also the second book in the Vampire Destiny series.

Alright, so remember that one plot point in which the big bad guy, The Lord of the Shadows, is either going to be Darren Shan or his counterpart, Steve Leopard? Good, Because that becomes really important in this book.

So, after the events of Lake of Souls Darren and Harkat go back to the Cirque du Freak and travel with them until they figured out what to do next. (Please don’t ask me why they’re not actively looking for the Vampaneze Lord. I don’t know why either.) Eventually, the Cirque goes back to Darren’s hometown, which causes Darren to reminisce about his life before he became a vampire. He goes back to his old home, to find that his parents had moved out a few years ago, but his sister, Annie, still lives there with her son. It’s important to note that she never got married and no one (or, at least accordingly to the neighbor Darren talks to) knows who the father is. Interesting.

Though Darren thinks about talking to Annie, he decides not to since it would raise too many questions and would bring back many distasteful memories.

It’s interesting to note that Darren is becoming before more and more the brooding, sad vampire archetype that usually comes about in modern culture. Granted, he’s not a full on Edward, but still. It’s evident here that Darren has grown a lot since A Living Nightmare.

Darren then returns to the Cirque du Freak. The next day, Darren and Harkat sees some little, creepy boy spying on them. And since having children explore the Cirque du Freak has always gone well before, they decide to give the kid, whose name is Darius, a tour of the Cirque.

And man, is this kid creepy. During this whole scene, he keeps a weird distance between everyone. If you compare this with how much awe Sam Grest had for the Cirque way back in The Vampire’s Assistant, it’s a little weird.

Despite Darius’s weirdness, Darren gives him a ticket for that night’s show. Except… he doesn’t show up. However, one of Darren’s old friends from before he became a half-vampire, Tommy Jones does.

 

This book operated like most second books in a trilogy do, by expanding the universe and setting things up for the third book, but man did it set things up. Everything in this book sets up for a giant battle between Darren and Steve, who is actually around this entire time messing with Darren. Which is probably for the best because it became clear that Darren wasn’t going to look for him.

I AM SO EXCITED TO READ THE SONS OF DESTINY.

 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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