Valiant (The Modern Faerie Tales #2) by Holly Black

28 Mar

Valiant (The Modern Faerie Tales, #2)

Valiant (The Modern Faerie Tales #2)

by Holly Black
Rating; 4/5 Stars
When seventeen-year-old Valerie Russell 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. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-colored powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there’s Luis’s brother, timid and sensitive Dave, who makes the mistake of letting Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet.

When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been dealing, Val finds herself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honorable. And as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between her affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.

Bestselling author Holly Black follows her breakout debut, Tithe, with a rich, harrowing, and compulsively readable parable of betrayal, abuse, friendship, and love.

Valiant, like Tithe, is a gritty, visceral nose dive–this time into the streets of New York City from small town New Jersey where adults are messy, intrusive plot elements and skeezy boyfriends are even worse.After catching her boyfriend making out with her mother on their living room couch, Valerie runs away to New York City where she makes quick friends with Lolli (Lollipop), Dave, Luis, and a kitten–a ragtag bunch of teens who dumpster dive for their meals and live in the subway tunnels beneath the city. It isn’t long before Valerie begins to notice Lolli’s tendency to shoot up with a mysterious substance and the odd deliveries Dave makes for an unknown boss. Accompanying him on one delivery, Val is confronted with the world of Faeries and soon runs head first into Ravus, a troll living inside the Manhattan Bridge, and his mysterious glass sword. Bargaining for Lolli’s life, Val agrees to run errands for Ravus and finds herself delivering medicine to the iron-sensitive Faeries living in exile all around the city. Lolli, Dave, and Luis have found another use for the medicine: given to humans, the concoction has hallucinogenic effects and allows the teens to use glamour, fairy magic that has transformative, manipulative results. Affectionately calling the drug Never, the teens continue to steal from Ravus’ supplies as Faeries begin dying and accusations are pointed at Ravus and his potions.

Val finds herself in the center of the drama between the Seelie and Unseelie Court in this dark, runaway fantasy far separated from the tedium of high school and homework. Holly Black has a knack for quick, in your face openings and wicked Faerie characters that confront sweet and doting Disney incarnations. The fiendish, earthly creatures from Tithe are back in the murder mystery that is Valiant. As the narrative progresses, it became painfully obvious I was never going to get a point of view from a familiar character or something to ground what I was reading to the Tithe I read a few years ago. Valiant isn’t about re-appearances, it’s a different plot line parallel to the Faerie world and filled with the repercussion of Tithe of which I don’t really remember, but wish I had.

Given how different it is, I thought I’d be able to pick up bits and pieces to jog my memory into constructing a workable foundation for references to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and characters like Roiben and Silarial. What actually happened was a complete mental flop; I should have borrowed Tithe to reread before I started onValiant. There was no plot synopsis, no catching up inner dialogue; Val, Dave, Lolli, and Luis have no reason to reminisce about what happened to Kaye or Roiben–neither of whom they know exists.

To connect these two adventures, the reader’s window into the familiar world of Titheis through the Faerie folk themselves: Ravus, Mabry, and numerous other strange, beautiful, and sinister exiles from the Seelie court who find themselves entangled in the political machinations (whims, fancies, whatever) of the Courts. The only thing is, we get a very narrow window into this world after the events of Tithe (chronologically,Tithe is before Valiant, yes? Is my memory that bad?), so small in fact, that I would have had to remember some crucial narrative events from the first book to make sense of the meager scraps of no doubt highly revelatory information one can only assume is crystal clear and static-free to careful readers that arrive fresh from the pages of Titheto embark on the journey that is Valiant to make important connections.

I’m not complaining–I’m hitting myself over the head for being silly and lazy enough to think I could “fake it” and enjoy Valiant the way I think it was supposed to be enjoyed–read after a reread of Tithe just in case something came up that would lead to what’s been going on behind the scenes.

In any event, the book was good and fun! Holly Black tackles drug abuse and addiction, friendship, betrayal, love, and fear in brute force honesty surrounded by urban parks and wild, untamed nature. The prude in me was a little horrified that teens are reading these things, worrying that replacing “real” drugs with “fairy” drugs would make it sound excusable to participate in related behaviors, but I got over that pretty quickly. She handles it well, I think, for the short amount of pages she had to devote to everything else. Not only that, but she wrote a great book filled with powerful, unsuspected magical objects, and ordinary kids faced with extraordinarily odd circumstances.

The scariness of Black’s magic isn’t the bad stuff that could happen should you be on the wrong side of a bad spell, it’s the fine line between the worlds of humans and Faeries and the ease with which we could all fall prey to something as supernatural and dangerous as glamour, hidden in such alluring, mundane packages. The warning is loud and clear: not everything that glitters is gold. It could be rat poison or your future demise at metaphorical needlepoint when your willpower crumbles and you find yourself going down dark paths of destructive, selfish behavior. Unlike Faeries, humans only have so long to live. So don’t waste it getting a Never high and go pick up this book if you haven’t already, but have read Tithe and thought, “OMG yay! I want more!”


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