Although I can’t say that the Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black has made me a die-hard fan, I can say that this is not your average fairy tale. There are no pretty fields of flowers where everyone dances and sings, at least not outside of a glamor. The characters are trashy and rough, but that’s what allows them to navigate through the sewage spewed by the Seelie and Unseelie courts.
The first novel, “Tithe,” didn’t really thrill me. Overall, the characters and the fictitious world were fantastic, but there were a few areas within the plot that felt forced and made me feel a little lost. Still, I loved the gritty characters enough to go for book two, and read it faster than I did the first.
“Valiant” is by far the best in the series. I actually thought the novel could have stood alone. It only slightly overlaps with events from the first book. The novel takes Valerie into the subway tunnels of New York and keeps pulling the reader down into a twisted world far more deranged and bloody than Wonderland. Black does a great job of making you feel like you’re slipping down that rabbit hole with Val, to the point you wonder if you’ll ever see daylight again. It is by far my favorite book in the series.
The third book, “Ironside,” is more of a sequel to book one, but does bridge books one and two. I can’t pinpoint any holes, like in book one, but even as much as I enjoyed it, I almost couldn’t read it when Roibon and Kaye are separated by a cruel fairy custom. Call me sentimental, but I love a good happy ending when it comes to love. And it was for these two characters that I continued the series in the first place. For that reason, the third book stressed me a little, but I consider that a mark in Black’s favor since I became attached to the lives of her main characters — the way a reader should if an author does his/her job.
Overall, one of the things the series does well is that there are so many outside wills affect the plot that even an obscure line of dialogue can influence the ending of the novel, and I found nothing predictable about the books or the series, which is nice for someone who tends to guess the ending of most books thirty pages in.
This is definitely a series worth reading if you like gritty urban fairy tales, because these aren’t your usual fairies.