Book: Valiant: A Modern Faerie Tale #2 by Holly Black
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2006
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Thriller
Source + Date Read: Friend + September, 2011
Recommend: For those that enjoy a grungy fairy tale.
Book Pro’s: Holly Black is the original modern faerie tale writer. She’s written a compelling, well written story on an interesting topic: How our magical, fanciful friends have survived in the contemporary world.
Book Con’s: I’m a natural hypochondriac so the sheer lack of disregard forhealth in this book pushed me over the edge.
Favourite Line: “It’s the flaw that brings out the beauty.”
If I was rating on covers alone, I’d give this a 2 out of 5. There is nothing compelling or captivating about it. Whilst browsing a wide array of books in a store, would this catch your eye? Would this be compelling? I give it some credit though– it keeps with Valiant‘s dark, edgy and almost dirty description.
Initially, the story is set in New Jersey and quickly travels to the seedy and dark world of New York homeless youth. We see characters spending more time in the dark, among rats, filth and bodily fluids, rather than we see the light. Again, this lends itself to the dark overtone of the book.
We’ve got some interesting, though infuriating characters in Valiant. Our protagonist is Val, a tomboy who leaves home upon finding out something unsettling about her mother and boyfriend– yup. Though flawed, Val is a strong teenage girl who doesn’t take a great deal of crap and prefers to be the sidekick, she’d rather listen than be in any limelight. Some of the other characters however, Lollie for instance, love it. Upon running away Val makes a few friends, Luis, Dave and Lollie. All are tortured by different demons and choose to live in their own subculture. Their anger and survivalist attitude make them a decent match for Val. Black did a good job with her characters, I’d give them a 4 out of 5.
Valiant is a different coming of age story and the horrors that can go on in the process. Early on Black introduces us to Val, the protagonist of the story. She is a strong, witty, sidekick of a gal who loves her boyfriend dearly. We realise fairly quickly that Black does not shy away from adult topics such as sex, smoking and lesbian. I actually enjoyed this about the book because the author made very human characters by embracing their flaws and highlighting their compatibility with the average youth of the day. It is a true modern tale.
The story picks up quickly when Val confronts by a troubling sight, one that I wish not to divulge because it really would ruin one of the best surprises in the book. Upon this sight, Val numbly travels to New York to watch a Hockey game. Unable to face her demons she ends up spending the night on a subway platform floor. She quickly meets her new friends, Sketchy Dave and Lollie (yes, short for Lollipop) and get hooked into their world. These teenagers aren’t like your regular coddled teenagers, they’re homeless, badass, misguided and tortured– wait, besides the homeless part they do sound like normal teenagers. We meet Luis, who dislikes anyone new, Ravus the troll and the teeming world of the modern Fae.What happens next is a walk through a typical plot– we see chaos, romance, more chaos, a climax and a pretty tidy ending. Too tidy.
Indeed, the novel is rated a 3 out of 5 page turns because of some plot issues I had. The ending was too tidy, way too tidy actually and lasted around 25 pages. I really would have liked to find out what happened to Dave and Luis a bit more, and see more growth from all the characters. After all, when experiencing a traumatizing event, you’d hope for some maturity right? Also, how is it that Val figures out who the bad guy is and no one else can? She’s smart but not that sharp.
My second issue with the novel is Black’s complete disregard forhealth. Once you get past the grime, dirt and cursing, there are a lot of drugs and sex taking place. What I don’t understand is how these teenagers can stick a needle in each others arms with complete disregard for diseases. This is my hypochondria showing up and maybe, Black purposefully leaves out this knowledge with the characters to show their desperate plight, they just don’t give a damn and only live for the day– screw tomorrow. I see why Black did it, but man, it bugs me.
Nevertheless, Valiant is an interesting take on a modern faerie tale. Black boldly goes where many shy away from, she confronts poverty, homelessness and bleak desperation with a fantastical twist. Indeed, this dark realism is a hallmark of Black’s as we see in her other novels. She definitely isn’t afraid of portraying teenagers as bratty, cruel and tortured individuals– almost adults really. No idealism with her, people! I’d never have imagined this world for myself, and as the second book in a series, it is a wonderful effort. It is definitely worth it’s .