Thursday, July 07, 2005

Teen 'Views: Valiant

And here's our first Teen 'Views review from YAB member, James M.:
Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Hello. Welcome to Mr. Strange Guy's review corner. Today I will be reviewing Valiant by Holly Black. Valiant is the story of Valerie, a relatively normal girl living with her mother. After discovering that she has been betrayed by some of the people she cares about, she flees her house, ending up stranded in New York City. She encounters Dave, Lolli, and Luis, a trio of squatters living in an abandoned subway station. The three seem a bit strange, but she doesn't mind until she meets a woman whom Dave makes a delivery to, one which happens to have hooves instead of feet. What follows is Val's journey into a very unusual world, one full of faeries, trolls, and everything in between.

When I first started reading this book, I was not overly impressed. The story starts decidedly slow, and I found myself uninterested in the initial events. Once Val ends up in New York, it gets a bit more interesting, but was still not very exciting. When the characters who are not human start showing up, things get much better very quickly. The world of faeries is wonderfully detailed and described, not a detail missed. The characters are equally as enthralling, with even the story's minor players characterized very well. The story itself was also wonderful once the major conflict showed up, and it was built up quite nicely. In fact, the primary problem does not even become a large issue until at least halfway through the novel. It is hinted at and then slowly built on until Valerie has no choice but to deal with it. From the moment Valerie meets her first faerie until you turn the last page, Valiant is a very enjoyable read.

While Valiant is good, it does have some flaws that drag it down. While the world of faerie is enjoyable, the world of humans seems a bit flat in comparison. I found myself caring much more about the faeries than the humans that Valerie interacts with. In addition, the beginning just does not hold a candle to the rest of the novel. It seemed as if the author devoted all of her talent (of which there is a lot) to the later 70% of the book. Valerie herself is a notable exception, with her actions and decisions, both good and bad, explained, and her thoughts are very interesting. That being said, the world of humans and the humans themselves are characterized and described quite well. The problem is that it seems that much more attention was paid to the faerie world rather than the human one. If a bit more time was spent on the beginning, this would be an instant classic. Then again, I may just be nitpicking.

Despite my griping, I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Valiant. As soon as you get past the beginning, you are not going to want to put this one down. It really is a wonderful book.

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