12/06/2005 Entry: "VALIANT by Holly Black -- Ambivalence (Preeti, Margaret)"
I like the world Holly Black has created in VALIANT and the related book, TITHE--the juxtaposition of faeries and the urban landscape of NYC--but some of the darkness in this book turned me off. The murder in the abandoned subway station was the scene from which I didn't quite recover.
The story arc with Ravus the troll was intriguing, but his relationship with Val seemed too abrupt. Me being me, this is what I wanted to read about most, but the focus of the story lay more with Val's new friends and Val's own journey, of course.
The homeless teen band were unlikable and kept getting more so as the book progressed. I know they're a means to show Val's alienation, fall into self-destruction and redemption or something, but I've never enjoyed spending time with characters I dislike in the books I read. (This reminds me of a high school friend, though--the more messed up the kids were in a book, the more fascinating she found it. She ended up a clinical psychologist, natch.)
What captured my imagination most from the book were the physical spaces in the story, especially the abandoned subway station and the home under the bridge so perfect for a modern troll. These reminded me of the allure secret hideaways held for me as a kid.--Preeti
I thought the start was well done--now there is a really good reason for running away from home and refusing to call your mother! I didn't enjoy Val's life on the street. It was written convincingly enough, but I found it uninteresting and unpleasant, though I suppose it was necessary to establish "normality" before introducing the Faerie element.
I like Black's Faerie--incomprehensible and dangerous--and the way their world interacts with ours. I did not like the thoughtless and easy way Val slid into drug taking and betrayal of Ravus--it seemed out of character, so I felt I didn't know her as well as I thought I did. I was somewhat less interested in her after that. Most of the characters were unsympathetic and rather shallow. The most interesting were Ravus and Val's friend Ruth. Val's relationship with Ravus didn't get enough space to make it convincing.
I also felt there was too much message: if you take drugs it feels great but you do really stupid things--break the law, endanger yourself and your friends, sleep with the wrong people and betray those who trust you. I felt that this was a message the author thrust at me rather than one that I found for myself.
Holly Black seems to have an aversion to cats--any cat that appears in her books seems to get killed. As I am very fond of cats I find this casual brutality distressing.--Margaret