Both of this year’s Wyrd & Wonder read-along titles are by authors I have not read before! I have considered picking up Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series before, but it’s never been a priority and it seemed the kind of thing that might be overhyped… however, a stand-alone like The Darkest Part of the Forest is the perfect introduction to her writing style! This is week one of the readalong, looking at chapters 1-5, and the post will contain spoilers! So, here we go…
All is fair in Fairfold… or is it? What are your thoughts on the way of life in this particular bubble? What do you make of the folk of Fairfold, both Fair and mundane?
It’s certainly an interesting setting and I’ve been wondering whether it counts as urban fantasy or not… but what I’ve really enjoyed in the first few chapters is the way the story first paints this town so tied up with the Folk as idyllic and magical, and by chapter 5 it has peeled back a few layers to show how it’s not quite the blessing one might think. I think this is mirrored quite well by Hazel, who seems to both romanticise and hate the Folk. It’s interesting how casual the mundane people of Fairford treat the Folk to casually, and I wonder how wise that is, and the way all the world seems to know about this phenomenon but nothing other than tourism has come out of it. Where are the others who think they can hunt the Folk? Where are the ambitious people hoping to capture a supernatural creature to exhibit or dissect? I suppose it’s a YA romance and I may be asking too much of it…
As for the Folk, I want to see more! I would 100% be someone that romanticises living near the fey (as a kid I fully believed in fairies because my mom would hide little treats in the woods for me to discover and said they were gifts from them) and I hope as the story progresses we get an insight into their world. I like how they have their own unspoken rules and I am most intrigued by the horned boy now that he’s left his eternal slumber.
We need to talk about Hazel. How much impending trouble do you think our ‘hero’ is about to get into? Also: how much of that trouble do you think she’s going to be responsible for?
Oh Hazel! I don’t know if I like her quite yet, and that’s partly because I definitely think all her problems are of her own making and I have little sympathy. To be fair, I guess its partly due to her upbringing (more on that in a moment) but I feel like someone who grew up surrounded by the Folk and their stories should know better, even at 11, than going off to make strange and vague deals. And she definitely should have told her brother, because that’s probably one of the big reasons they’re not as close anymore. But then, in terms of how much trouble is upcoming, I’m not quite sure… I guess from her point of view her life as she knows it is ending, but there might be something more intriguing on the other side of that!
Speaking of Hazel, let’s talk about her and Ben’s parents. Are they simply misguided romantics, or do you think they’re Bad Parents?
I think maybe a few years ago I would have been more forgiving towards Hazel and Ben’s parents, because I like the idea of an artsy, quirky couple but as an aspiring mother I have been doing a lot more thinking and research into what makes a good parent. And love and attention are the key things, which our siblings are clearly not getting. I’m sure their parents do love them, but are they showing that?
I’m sure they think they’re amazing parents, and I wouldn’t say they’re Bad™️ but they’re certainly setting their kids up for some issues… plus the whole ‘at least we’re not like those other boring normal people’ thing is a bit red flags for me… and I think Holly Black is sort of criticising that attitude, but to a certain extent I believe it’s genuine because this is the type of book that has a quirky, not-like-other-girls main character.
This is a freebie for you to use to share any and all general & specific thoughts/feelings/suspicions etc on these opening chapters! Fire away…
It was a bit of a tone shift to have Hazel wake up full of glass splinters, mud, and leaves and was perfectly eerie. I did like that, and again I feel like Hazel is not taking this seriously enough. Girl, talk to your brother!! But I’m guessing she must have found a way to break the glass coffin and free her elfin prince. Strange that she doesn’t remember, but that is the magic of the fae!
Other thoughts include:
- I hope Jack remains a part of the plot because I love my sensitive changeling boy
- I really loved that moment when the true extent of the Folk’s presence in Fairfold comes to light, because it just opened the story wide open!
- I have no clue where the story might go next which is quite an exciting feeling but I think I can safely predict a lot of angst, miscommunication, and a ton of mischief.
This has been a fun first week, and it strikes me how different this title is from the other readalong title, The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay; both borrow heavily from old mythologies and tropes, and both circle mystical forests, but where The Summer Tree is a slower, more ethereal story, The Darkest Part of the Forest simply does not hit the breaks and cuts straight to the heart of things. It just amazes me how the same basic ingredients can always inspire new and wildly different stories, all beautiful in their own way! Storytelling is amazing…
Anyway, I’m going to be your guide (host) for week two of this readalong, so I’m eagerly pushing on to the next section and will have some questions for you all in the next few days! If you want to join us, DM myself or one of the other Wyrd and Wonder hosts (we don’t bite) and we’ll add you to our Twitter community where we post our questions and discussions every week!