Book Review: Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale is a brooding, intense, fascinating story. The rich descriptions and complex characters support a plot that will hold your attention.

Sixteen-year-old street-wise Kaye finds herself living with her grandmother on the Jersey shore after a nomadic existence with her mother’s rock band. Kaye used to see fairies when she was younger, but she has come to accept them as the product of a fertile imagination, until she meets Roiben, a darkly intense and attractive faerie knight, and becomes a pawn in a war between two rival faerie courts.

Holly Black’s world of Faerie is dark – very dark – a place where perfect horror intermingles with perfect beauty. Her human world isn’t any better: a bleak and gritty world where troubled humans try to make the best of their meager lives. But within those dark worlds, there is hope, and heroism comes from unexpected places.

It’s in the characters that Holly Black really shines: human and fairy are rich and complex, and sometimes show unexpected depth. Don’t take anyone at face value in this book!

I can’t help wondering if there’s a little bit of Puck in Roiben. His name is similar to Robin, and in fact Kaye tells her friends that she’s met a man named Robin (Puck is also called Robin Goodfellow in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Roiben is the chief knight to one of the two Faerie queens (there doesn’t appear to be a king here) and he is known to act sometimes in unpredictable ways. All that makes me think that Puck was an influence here. Or maybe it’s just that I’m seeing Puck everywhere, now.

This is not a book for children. There are some pretty grisly scenes, and adult situations. But older teens will connect with this book in a big way. Holly Black obviously remembers what it’s like to be a teen: the pain of teen relationships, the struggle for identity, and the lack of understanding from authority figures.

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