Read-along: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (week 2)

The horned prince has awoken! The faeries have attacked one of Fairfold’s own. And Hazel’s received a second creepy walnut note. We’re all heading for the darkest part of the forest, whether we like it or not. Thankfully, this is a Wyrd and Wonder read-along, so we’re all keeping each other company (there will be no splitting up to cover more ground!) This week the awesome Ariana from The Book Nook is posing the questions and keeping us on the path. Let’s talk about teenagers, monsters and faeries …

 

Week 2: Chapters 6 through 11

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?

The relationship between Hazel and Ben is fascinating. That they are both supportive and caring and competitive and jealous makes for interesting reading. I love that they’re both fiercely protective of one another, whilst also dealing out mostly unintentional little hurts. The situation with Kerem was horrible (mean little sh*t), and the slightly awkward dynamic it’s introduced to their relationship feels like something unfinished that Severin’s awakening is going to bring back up.

Ben’s feelings about his ‘gift’ and his desire for some control over it and Jack’s own feelings about who and what he is share a lot in common, and I really love their friendship. I like Jack a lot (and we’re all agreed that he’s in love with Hazel, right?), particularly when he went full-faerie for a moment to try and warn Hazel and Ben not to get involved in the horned prince’s business. Also, how weird must it be to be surrounded by people wearing protections against faeries and magic, when you are a faerie? Jack has every ounce of my empathy for living in a community in which his own ’father’ looks at him sidelong. Even if everyone else has to die for Jack to get a happy ending – so be it.

 

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 think whatever’s going to happen will change their relationship permanently, but I’m inclined to think (at the moment) that it’ll survive, nonetheless. There’s real affection between them, above and beyond their competitive streaks, and they’ve been united against the world on so many different fronts – I don’t feel like that’s something that will be entirely broken, maybe just reconfigured.

It’s complicated though, huh? They’ve seen and done some pretty dark stuff between the two of them. Maybe they’re not so well-adjusted as I first thought. Although I feel that’s more to do with the influence of the Fair Folk in their lives than their ‘bad’ parents, (yep, still defending the parents!).

I was relieved to learn that their parents went with them when Ben went to music school in Philadelphia – I’d assumed they just took off on their own, or went to live with relatives, or something. And I liked Hazel’s musing that their parents had grown up and gotten more normal over the years.

 

We’ve finally caught a glimpse of the horned prince, Severin. What are your first impressions, and what do you think his story and intentions might be?

I found it interesting that Severin described his glass coffin as “made to hold a monster” – my current theory being that he was hunting the monster from the heart of the woods, planning to trap it (her?) in the coffin, but somehow he got trapped inside instead. I have no idea how Hazel and Ben fit into this possible version of events, except that Hazel found the sword Heartsworn, which just happened to be the only thing that could free Severin (which makes me question her ‘finding’ of it, even though it seemed accidental enough). I don’t know why Severin has been able to hear everything Hazel and Ben (and everyone else who ever hung out by the coffin, presumably), has ever said within his vicinity while he was sleeping, or why that would be something built into the magic of the coffin. I’m possibly overthinking the whole idea.

My first impressions of Severin are otherwise pretty sketchy. He doesn’t feel very trustworthy at the moment. And from the way he’s spoken to both Hazel and Ben, he’s not above manipulating them in anyway necessary to meet his ends, but I don’t think he’s necessarily bad. And his reaction to their offer of help and friendship – “I am no hob or hearth spirit, to be obligated by gifts” – made me chuckle. I am very curious to know more, right now.

 

“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?

I thought this was an appealing flip-over of the idea that the deep dark woods are usually the places “where all the stories happen” and where “people go to be transformed”. For Ben, growing up alongside the Folk, the city offers a place for him to start again and be someone new. That he might want to be someone different makes me sad, but I thought it was interesting that the city is where he is transformed: his tender fourteen-year-old heart broken, and then his hand, so that he returns to Fairfold unable to play music.

Interesting too that Ben craves normality, while Hazel wants “to be seen” and starts flirting, and later, kissing boys, to this end. That faerie’s blessing has twisted both their lives askew it would seem.

 

Final random thoughts:

Carrots and ironrods? Huh?

Where’s Heartsworn gone? (My suspects: Ben, or Jack).

 

9 comments

  1. I reckon Ben and Hazel are about as well adjusted as can be given their situation, and Ben no darker than most youngsters given a superpower and a hard time. Hazel’s fae hunting and wild desire for attention are darker and less well adjusted, but at the same time, she’s spent her entire life near a curse that pushes her out of the limelight. It’s a rough hand and she seems to be doing okay.

    Also yeah if Jack and Hazel don’t make horny eyes at each other we riot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack is *definitely* in love with Hazel and I don’t blame him – I too would be in love with a sword wielding redhead! I also hadn’t really thought until this section that Jack has had to live with all the wards against the fae his whole life. Yikes! I say we start the Protect Jack Squad!

    Importantly though – what makes you suspect one of the boys of taking the sword?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Protect Jack Squad unite! ✊

      I suspect Jack because he knows more than he’s letting on, and he’d want to protect Hazel in any way he could, I reckon. Also the silvery clothes left behind sound faerie-ish.

      On the other hand, I suspect Ben for similar protective reasons, but can’t then explain the silver clothes.

      But both lads could probably access Hazel’s room with minimal trouble, and know about the box under the bed.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s