Elise (TheBookishActress)'s Reviews > The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
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This book is about evil fairies and subverting genre expectations.


It took me a long time to figure out why, exactly, this book captivated me so much. Yes, it's definitely a solid read, but what made this a five-star-favorite-book-ever read? I think in the long run what stood out to me was how Holly Black sees the tropes of this story and avoids them. Ben and Hazel are essentially a role-reversal of typical fantasy heroes. The boy is the one in love with a fair prince in the woods, the girl is the lionheart fighting for their lives.

I also liked that The Darkest Part of the Forest is so... not heteronormative. I don't know how to describe it any better than that - Holly Black has this casual approach towards writing lgbtq characters that works perfectly. The entire world blends gender and sexuality binaries into this map that rings so true.

All that being said, you need to have proper expectations for her writing. Black writes characters and relationships that are fucked up and doesn't always care to tell the audience “hey, this isn't okay.” There's this vibe of evil, of hate, that she's not trying to get rid of.


Holly Black is very good at writing unlikeable protagonists, characters you somewhat despise and somewhat love. She risks making you hate her protagonists so that you'll love her protagonists and I love it.

The Darkest Part of the Forest has four main protagonists, two point of view characters and two somewhat-love-interests. I love all of them, of course. Black is very good at making you empathize with characters you feel as if you should dislike. Severin, for example, reads like he should be a villain. But the audience gets to decide whether he truly is.

Hazel, though, is especially my favorite. She does not fit into any boxes; she is both the warrior archetype and a complex subversion of the warrior archetype. I felt as if I had a feel for her twenty pages in, and I never did give up that love for her.

I also somewhat adore the way Holly Black writes relationships. She is this odd mix between a cynic and a hopeless romantic and her romance writing comes off exactly that way. Both romance plots here (I won't spoil with who!!) are understated but well-built all the same.

And of course, there's the emphasis on sibling bonds. Ben and Hazel's sibling relationship is intricate and interesting.


Holly Black's writing is incredibly tense. You constantly feel as if you have to figure out what happens next.

The environment is maybe one of my other favorite things about this book. Ben and Hazel's small town feels like another world, a claustrophobic hideaway cut off from all being. It makes a perfect setting, just eerie enough to make you feel on edge. She managed to make me feel small in comparison to this world, to this town, in a very visceral way. It's so engaging.

VERDICT: This is one of my favorites and I REALLY recommend it to everyone. If morally ambiguous fairies in an eerie setting subverting genre expectations sounds like your shit, you need to pick this up.

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Reading Progress

September 17, 2016 – Started Reading
September 18, 2016 – Shelved
September 18, 2016 – Finished Reading
October 1, 2016 – Shelved as: that-lgbtq-rep-tho
January 24, 2017 – Shelved as: narrative-trope-subversion
March 17, 2017 – Shelved as: favorite-relationships
April 12, 2017 – Shelved as: 5-star
April 12, 2017 – Shelved as: ze-faves-of-2016
April 29, 2017 – Shelved as: genre-high-fantasy
May 27, 2017 – Shelved as: this-aestheticy-setting
August 27, 2017 – Shelved as: elise-underrated-list
April 1, 2018 – Shelved as: narratives-of-bitch-me-too-the-fuck
August 5, 2018 – Shelved as: narrative-gay-genre-fiction
August 5, 2018 – Shelved as: narrative-gay-fantasy-content

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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Vanessa I loved this one a lot too and tbh I'll only check The Cruel Prince out, because I read somewhere that these characters are supposed to have a cameo in it (okay, also because I hope it will be an actual good book too, but I gotta have priorities!).

Elise (TheBookishActress) @Vanessa it might have been in my review - I've already read the Cruel Prince and yes, a couple of them do cameo 😄

Vanessa That's quite possible actually hahaha. ^^;
(Wtf I only saw your answer by chance scrolling through my timeline... Goodreads didn't notify me, when I clearly have that option on. *frowns and sighs*)

Elise (TheBookishActress) (I do not like the GR notifications system lol)

message 5: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Reese I have loved Holly Black since I first read the Spiderwick Chronicles! Thank you for reviewing this so I know that her other books are still wonderful!

Elise (TheBookishActress) @Sarah I'd definitely give them a try if you ever get the chance!! She's fantastic 😄

Sara Rastakhiz well after reading such an intense review i havre decided to give it a go! thanks foe sharing your opinion

Elise (TheBookishActress) @Sara aaah thank you and hope you give it a try!

Martina Finished reading it on Saturday. It's true, the lack of heteronormative, I live

message 10: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily Your review has me DYING to read this!!

Elise (TheBookishActress) @Martina this book made me 10000% gayer

@Emily aaah oh my god I hope you like it!!

Raven I just read this one! Loved it!

Elise (TheBookishActress) Raven wrote: "I just read this one! Loved it!"

aaaah we love that!!

message 14: by Haytham (new) - added it

Haytham Reid Oh, I want to read this so bad now!

Awesome review!! :p

Elise (TheBookishActress) Haytham wrote: "Oh, I want to read this so bad now!

Awesome review!! :p"

awww, thank you so much, Haytham! I hope you love it if you get to it soon <3

Lexie Lawless :))) <3<3<3

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