readalong · Wyrd And Wonder

The Darkest Part of the Forest Read-along: Week Two

It’s the second week of our readalong of Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest and we’re poised on the edge of a full moon gathering, so tensions are rising! This week we’ve met the mysterious boy in the box, asleep no longer, and uncovered more of Hazel’s past. The questions this time are from me and cover chapters 6-11 so please beware of spoilers… Let’s get cracking!

We’ve seen a bit more of Hazel in this next section, as well as brief points of view from Ben and Jack. How are we feeling towards this trio and their dynamics?

I really liked getting those glimpses into Ben and Jack’s thoughts and I want moooore! Poor tortured Ben with his cursed gift, and Jack torn between two worlds. It’s interesting that both their situations have come up due to decisions made by their parents. Ben’s mother didn’t know what would happen when she decided to paint that fae woman, but it irrevocably affected Ben’s life (and Hazel’s in a lot of ways). As for Jack, his mother chose to make him a changeling, and his “mother” then chose to keep him away from his true nature. It does seem like she really loves Jack and is doing it out of care for him, but I don’t think she realises how much her decision affected him. To her, Jack is now living a safe, “normal” life but he can never be truly human.

I also love the hints we get of that in this section – Jack’s cryptic warnings, his difficulties with all the wards in town, the hints of compulsion he might have. As I write this, my fellow reader-alonger Peat has just suggested Jack and his ability to compel someone to action could mean he’s the one behind Hazel’s night-time foray into freeing Severin, which would be quite the twist!! I’m not going to fixate on it too much, though, because if he can do it that means any of the Folk can and he seems to love Hazel too much to do that to her…

Hmm, I seem to have turned this into a ‘talk about Jack’ answer which wasn’t quite the intention…

On the topic of dynamics, what do we think of the siblings now that we’ve seen a bit more of Ben and Hazel’s history? Do you think they can come out of everything that’s happening with an intact relationship?

I love siblings in literature – perhaps because I’ve grown up with the interesting dynamic of being the older sister to quadruplets (non identical, thank god) I really appreciate when a sibling relationship is done well, with all its goofiness and messiness (Umbrella Academy is a pro at this). I really feel for Hazel having to be the ordinary one in the family, especially since her parents are so artistic and so clearly value the arts, so Ben’s gift/curse is probably elevated in their minds even more. For all that, though, she is hardly ever resentful, at least not towards Ben himself, and only cares about maintaining their open and earnest relationship.

You can’t do that, though, when you make a deal with the Fae on behalf of your brother and then never tell him, Hazel!!! This is the classic spiral, because the more Hazel keeps from Ben, the less likely she’ll be to confide in him and the bigger the explosion if (when, let’s be honest) it all comes to light. Ben hasn’t been super open with Hazel, though, especially in regards to how he feels. Maybe if he’d told Hazel that hunting scared him she wouldn’t have made the deal in the first place. All this to say, I think it’s going to get messy between them, especially because Severin is a joint fixation of theirs. I do hope they make it out okay, and I think that if they’re both still alive by the end, they’ll be able to reconcile. But they’ll never be the same, as few are who are touched by the Fae…

We have finally caught a glimpse of the Horned Prince, Severin. What are first impressions, and what do you think his story and intentions might be?

What a privilege that we get not one but two brooding elfin boys! Severin is certainly sharp-edged and his motives remain largely uncertain to me right now. I think he’s still in recovery mode after so long in the glass coffin but I suspect whatever quest he has will be noble, and certainly morally grey. I did accidentally see a spoiler in relation to his past while looking something up about another character so I won’t say too much more… but I do think that whatever he has planned he won’t hesitate to use Ben and Hazel and manipulate them in whatever way works best to get their cooperation. I suspect Hazel might get to go hunting again after all, and perhaps Ben will reclaim his gift…

“The city’s a lot like the deep, dark fairy-tale woods of Fairfold, right?” Ben asks Hazel in a flashback scene. What do you make of this comparison and its implications?

This sounds like such an English teacher question now that I read it back!! Sorry! But this line just struck me at the time, and I find it fascinating that in a lot of stories, especially the non-fantastical ones, the city has taken the place of the fairytale woods. It has many of the same lures, traps, and beauty, and the same double-edged nature. And it’s probably why so much of the urban fantasy genre is set in cities – yes, I know that’s what urban means but you don’t often see the supernatural play out in the suburbs or quiet villages. When that’s the case, it’s usually the whole village/neighbourhood that has a secret to keep, whereas in cities supernatural beings can lose themselves in the chaos and the weirdness. All very interesting! Now, on to part three!

Thoughts around the forest

This is a readalong, so there are plenty of other opinions out there! Since I’m hosting this week, I thought I’d link to everyone else’s posts to make catching up easier. You can also, of course, join our community on Twitter (DM me to be added) and see the questions every week!

A Dance With Books | BookForager | Dear Geek Place | The Green Tea Librarian | Pages and Procrastination | Peat Long | Where Stories Lie

5 thoughts on “The Darkest Part of the Forest Read-along: Week Two

  1. But it’s easy to turn it into a Jack question, because we don’t know jack about Jack!

    Well. Not quite true. But what we know says how little we know.

    I think/hope that Hazel’s and Ben’s non-openness will work for them, as it’s easier to accept someone keeping secrets when you’ve done the same thing in their shoes.

    Finally – quads? That must have been a lively house growing up!

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  2. Jack is so interesting in this section. I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first. I felt like Severin and him might be antagonists. Because he likes Hazel… but I don’t know. Mysteries. I also feel bad that Ben literally smashes his hand to halt his gift.

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