Aug. 21st, 2010

starlady: meralonne and kallandras in the wood (in a dark wood)
Black, Holly. Tithe. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002.
--------------. Valiant. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2005.
--------------. Ironside. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.

I borrowed these books from [personal profile] shveta_writes in preparation for Sirens 2010, where Holly Black is one of the guests of honor, and I liked them a lot--I was actually sort of surprised by that, because I have never particularly had any affinity for fairy stories, particularly in contemporary fantasy and YA. But these books have enough convincing detail, and vivid characters, and also they're set in north Jersey and New York, that I was taken under their spell.

The obvious comparand for these books is Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, and at one point Bull is actually name-checked in the text, just to make the point clear. In comparison with that book, though, Black's protagonists are younger, more desperate, poorer )

So, yeah. I really liked these books; I loved the characters, particularly Corny and Kaye (Corny gets what has to be the nerdiest coming-out scene in literature, even if it is told in reported discourse), but everyone feels incredibly real, and when characters suffer the reader is not indifferent. I liked that Black is insistent in her acknowledgment of pain, not as anything more than that but unequivocally as something that people have to learn to bear, or fail at trying. She exposes too the ways in which pleasure and pain can run side by side or even overlap each other; her writing is dark and rich, shot through with dazzling flashes, as befits her subject matter. I also like that balance she strikes in playing the reader versus the characters knowing but not knowing how they are being played, and how people figure out the intrigues, or don't. I've bought Black's short story collection, and look forward very much to reading it.