I absolutely loved this modern day faerie tale where real girls end up saving the day. Faerie tales where the prince/monster needs saving by the princess. I hope with this spoiler-free review you might be tempted to pick up this trilogy as well.
Modern Faerie Tales is a trilogy written by Holly Black. She recently published her new novel “The Cruel Prince” which I read at the beginning of February. It was my first book by Holly Black and I really enjoyed it so I did some research on her other works and realised I already owned Modern Faerie Tales Trilogy. The decision to pick it up was a quick one and I don’t regret it.
The trilogy is divided into #1 Tithe, #2 Valiant and #3 Ironside, and are set in New Jersey and New York. The first book in the series was originally published back in 2004 and the last one was published in 2007. All three books are fairly short, around 300 pages per book. However, short does not mean bad, by all means! This trilogy packs a punch!
It’s not you’re classic faerie tale where the princess is saved by prince charming. Oh no! This is the faerie tale where the real people save honourable monsters and looks aren’t cared for. Just what I needed and wanted.
Brief Synopsis (spoiler free)
Book 1: Tithe
In Tithe, we follow Kaye, a 16-year old with a rockstar wannabe mother. We are first introduced to Kaye as she sits smoking and drinking milk (lol) at the bar waiting for her drunk mother to finish their set on stage. Over the last couple of years, Kaye has followed her mother around the country, moved from place to place and usually staying at her mother’s new boyfriends she picks up along the way. They have now moved so much that Kaye has lost track of her school records and has, without meaning to, dropped out. She started working at the local Chinese restaurant to help pay the rent, and get free food.
As her mother finishes on stage Kaye helps load the equipment while keeping an eye on her drunk mother. Kaye protects her mother from being stabbed by her then-boyfriend as something suddenly got over him. Having nowhere else to go, Kaye and her mother decide to move back to her childhood home and her grandmother who her mother doesn’t get along with.
Kaye is now sleeping in her old bedroom where the bed is too small and she has to sleep with her feet dangling off. Not to mention the decoration is still pink with porcelain dolls on the shelves. Luckily her childhood friend, Janet, is still there to keep her entertained. Janet lives in the nearby trailer park with her mother and brother Corney (short for Cornelious).
Strange things start to happen around Kaye as it did when she was a child when she had three imaginary friends which she felt were quite real. Janet’s boyfriend suddenly becomes obsessed with her. She makes a broken carousel horse, without legs, move. More importantly, she saves the life of a handsome fae who in return grants her true answers to three questions. She is then propelled into his world where her suspicion about her imaginary friends is so much more than she ever thought.
There has been a plot laid out between to powerhouses in Faerie in which she had to do her part for the greater good, or so she is told. Too bad she now has feelings for the handsome fae. Too bad she drags Corny into it all. A mortal in the Unseelie court is not a safe thing, and its all her fault. Can she go through with it? And more importantly what does she have to do?
Book 2: Valiant
The second book starts after the events in the first book but with different characters. In Valiant we follow 17-year old Val, a (not very girly) lacrosse player, who in the very first chapter finds her live turn upside down by a betrayal by someone very close. She leaves New Jersey in a fury and goes to New York. She even shaves her head on the train loo with a scissor and a razor from the beauty bag her mum gave her that she never uses. I mean, that’s just awesome! And totally random, I love it.
In New York, she meets a gang of squatters and decides to tag along as she has nothing better to do. Turns out one of the squatters made a bargain with a faerie, one run errands delivering faerie drugs, and one skims of the drug for their own use.
There are a lot of faeries living in exile in New York but someone is killing them. Val ends up in a bargain herself and in deep shit. Not only does she owe this faerie a month worth of work, she likes him too, and he teaches her so much more about his world. More faeries turn up dead in areas she is due to be. A world of faeries, magic and political intrigues. Her faerie is an exile, but is he also a murderer or is he being set up?
I mean, who did it? Who killed the fae?
Book 3: Ironside
I won’t say too much about this book because spoilers, but we’re back to Kaye’s perspective, and we also see the aspect of Roiben from the first book. This book follows on the event of both books and the characters are mixed up in a lovely tangle. There is a quest, there is political intrigue, there are love and quarrels. There is an Unseelie King vs a Seelie Queen, both with underlying questions of who is good and who is bad. Most importantly there is a war on the horizon. Can Kaye keep her loved ones safe? Can Corney keep his hands to himself? Can Luis protect everyone? Can Roiben stand up to the challenge he has given himself?
Its a raw and real story about faeries. Yeah I know I used the word “real” and “faeries” in the same sentence. But its true. The characters are from a real background on the lower end of the financial spectrum. The problems they face in the beginning of the stories are real, highschool-drama problems. Their actions are real and acted on from a position of teenage unpredictability and eagerness to try new things and be good at something, at anything!
It’s finally a book about real people who don’t care what they look like and lets you know that their looks are not important. I felt Holly Black made this very clear without pushing the info on me. Kaye starts off being a naturally blond half-Japanese girl and ends up not having what we are used to being normal “skin colour”, nor hair colour. Val shaves her head and talks about herself as someone how isn’t pretty and doesn’t want to be. To me, this is right up my lane and it’s very refreshing to read for this aspect.
Supporting characters in all three books add a different flavour of spice into the mix and it mixes well. In the first book, the main support character is Corny a gay self-proclaimed IT genius with dial-up with a love for Japanese erotic graphic novels and isn’t ashamed of it. To me, Corney felt very real (I’m using this word so much in this review, but its the only word I can use), and he is definitely someone I could see myself being friends with.
The main characters are all teenagers still trying to find their place in the world. You can almost expect it to be a bit gritty, as most teenagers are. There is also the added realness of no convenient power suddenly revealed in the main character to defeat the antagonist. The characters only have themselves, with all the mistakes and errors a person does while trying to do the right thing in a crazy world of faeries. And this goes for all three books.
The world of Faerie is built up nicely and continues to build throughout the entire trilogy. Its a typical parallel world hidden to human eyes. We enter both the Unseelie and the Seelie court at certain stages in the books, and we get to see the faeries in the real world and how they cope being constantly surrounded by iron.
The first book is a good introduction to the characters and the Unseelie Court. I did a blog about my first thought reading Tithe here where I ask myself 5 questions about the book. I don’t think my answers have changed much.
The second book is my favourite. The entire story is more of a murder mystery than anything else, and I love that. I kept wondering “who did it?” for almost the entire book. haha!
The third book is where all your questions will be answered 🙂
In the end, I gave all three books 4 and 5 stars. I immensely enjoyed the story and the characters made it a very refreshing read. I had minor issues with some elements in this series including the drug taking in the second book and the slow start for the first book. However, these are the only issues I had. According to good reads, this trilogy is either a love or a hate relationship and I’m definitely in the love waggon!
Holly Black is an amazing writer, I didn’t even notice the writing in these books. It’s like a great soundtrack on a movie: if its great it won’t be noticeable just helps enhance the mood, and that is how her writing is in this book. But she is quick and if you miss a beat you might get confused.
I found a new respect for the characters in ‘The Cruel Prince” after reading this trilogy. It is as if I understand them better, or understand where her writing comes from, where her mind is based and there form why the characters do what they do in “The Cruel Prince. I might have to re-read it 😁
Still in doubt about picking this trilogy up?
If you need a faerie story set in the real world with real people dealing with faerie problems in a real manner, this is for you! There is no bullshit or glitter. There is a purple catsuit 🙂 Just people dealing with other people. Obviously with faeries, love, intrigue, politics, and adventure. If that isn’t enough for you, then
I don’t know…
I highly recommend this trilogy, but no pressure 😊
Have you read this trilogy? What did you think? do you agree or disagree with my review? Let me know 😊
Also, this is my first ever published review so please let me know how I did. Did you miss something? Was there something I shouldn’t have done? Or was there something I should have added more to? All comments and thoughts are much appreciated 😁 Thank you!