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Holly Black
book cover

2002, October Simon & Schuster
Buy from Amazon.com (hardcover)
Buy from Amazon.com (mass market paperback)

Who recommends: Preeti, Isabel, Laurie, JW, Lori, Rebekah
Who discommends:

Holly Black's TITHE: A MODERN FAERIE TALE was a great read! It's a young adult novel, but not innocent at all. Reminiscent of Annette Curtis Klause's BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE or Francesca Lia Block's books or even Emma Bull's WAR FOR THE OAKS.

Sixteen-year-old Kaye has been haphazardly raised by her boozing, irresponsible mom, and it shows. When they're forced to retreat to their childhood home near the Jersey shore to live with Kaye's grandmother, Kaye quickly reconnects with her childhood school friends (no choir boys or girls in the bunch). Her childhood companions from the world of faerie are more elusive.

Then Kaye finds out there's much more to the faerie world than her little woods-dwelling friends when she stumbles upon an ambushed faerie knight and saves his life. The beautiful and fascinating Roiben is a member of the Unseelie court, a deadly agent of its queen. Kaye learns this too late, though; she's drawn to him. Although Kaye and Roiben are on different sides, they're caught in a power struggle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts that endangers them both.

This book had all the flash I could hope for. It was exciting and fast-paced and edgy and sexy. And short! I was surprised at what a quick read TITHE was, and wouldn't have minded a story that was more fleshed out. The story took place over only a week or so, which always casts doubt on the strength of romantic bonds formed, doesn't it? But I don't care. Holly Black creates as strong a glamour as any character in TITHE--Roebin had that dangerous, cynical, hero-despite-himself appeal that dazzles. And Kaye was revealed to be a young woman of unexpected strength and nobility. And the supporting cast was multi-dimensional. I want more!--Preeti (23 Jan 03)

I finished TITHE. Lovely story and I think I'm in love with Roiben.

I really enjoyed this book, but my mind is such a sieve lately that I doubt I would be very coherent in analyzing the whys and wherefores of my enjoyment. So impressions.... the girl (whose name slips my mind) was interesting enough but not the high point of the book for me. I found Roiben fascinating and wish Black had delved into his experiences more that she did. I can see why he found what's-her-face's courage and loyalty irresistible but I would have preferred to see the romance developed a little more. But the romance is there and this is a YA book.... It's a very fast read and I even stayed up to read it in one night (highly unusual for me nowadays) but I wanted a little more....

If you have the book, go read it. If I can finish it in one night while suffering from reader's block then you can too :)--Isabel (26 Feb 03)

I *loved* this book, Preeti. Thanks a million for the recommendation.

Here are my thoughts (minus all the plot synopsis that you already did so well):

TITHE is a real page-turner. I especially enjoyed its bleak, but never overwhelmingly depressing, look at life from a jaded sixteen-year-old's point of view. Even before Kaye discovers the world of faery her world isn't that of your typical teenager. Because of her upbringing and lack of parental support she's got an edge about her that makes her refreshingly interesting. She smokes, talks tough, and holds her own against the flaky, ineffective adults and self-absorbed teens that inhabit her world. Though she's self-reliant and insightful, she's still a teenager prone to emotion, moments of selfishness and wicked thoughts of revenge. Her faults, as well as her strengths, are the reason I enjoyed her character so much.

Her conflicted feelings for Roiben -- is he tortured hero or cold-hearted fiend? -- are also another fascinating aspect of the story. Their emerging romance manages to be sensual, touching, and anything but the same-old, same-old. If you're tired of angelic, nauseatingly good heroes and heroines, don't worry, because you won't find any here!

Though I enjoyed this book thoroughly I did spot a few minor problems (sorry, I can't shut off the nitpicker inside me). With the exception of Kaye, nearly all of the secondary characters aren't given enough space to become very well defined. This is one case where I think a longer book may have made for a near perfect book (and I almost never say such things). Kaye's troubled friend Corny and especially Roiben would've benefited from more space to become fully fleshed out characters. I guess we can hold out hope for a prequel all about Roiben.

There is also some troublesome dialogue here and there that needed a little tweaking. At times I felt like I'd walked in on the middle of a conversation and missed a sentence or two somewhere along the way. Other times I felt like the characters must be reading each others minds because their dialogue made little sense to me. Despite this the story moves very quickly, and is imaginative and entertaining. I wish it hadn't had to end quite so soon. I cannot wait to see what author Holly Black comes up with next.--Laurie (6 Mar 03)

I really loved the characters (especially Roiben) but the plot didn't really grab me, so I guess I'd say I liked it, didn't love it. I found myself skimming to scenes between the h/h, and not caring all that much about what else was going on.--JW (10 Apr 03)

I'm having a hard time deciding what I thought about this book TITHE, by Holly Black. It had a distinct style and strong voice. The female lead, Kaye, really grew on me. The book does a good job of showing grey areas and complexity in species/peoples and individuals. There are no white hats and black hats, with the most interesting and ambiguous character being the male lead, Roibon. It's a fresh take on Faerie--no pretty veneer, just straight to the heart of what are inhuman and ultimately unfathomable creatures.

Ok, so my big question is.... This is a young adult book?? There's an intense erotic S/M relationship, an adult who plans how he is going to kill people with a machine gun, and a lot of--what's a good word--debauchery. The violence is vivid and explicit (an attempted rape, gouging out an eye, pulling the wing off of a fairy and letting it flop around on the floor, etc). There's a creature that talks at length about the joy of drowning humans just to watch them thrash and fade. Maybe I haven't been reading the same YA as everyone else, but I found it jarring.

That said, I do recommend this book. It's got great ambigous characters, atmosphere and it sucked me right in. But, zhesh, shelf it in the adult section.--Rebekah(12 Sep 04)

I was reading adult books as a preteen, so I had no problems with the darkness of TITHE. I think there's tension between wanting to protect minors and letting them know the world as it really is. Don't know where that line should be. TITHE didn't cross it for me, although it did raise my eyebrows. It definitely mirrored a certain type of not-uncommon teenage experience, and I think teenagers should be allowed to work through darkness to heroism on a more accessible level than "evil darklord" versus "pure heroic village boy or girl" set-up. I think TITHE is more akin to the Grimm fairy tales in that way (i.e., in having sex and violence and the darker side of human nature.)--Preeti(12 Sep 04)

The ambiguity of the characters didn't bother me (I think it's good) or the realistic potrayal of teenagers or even the sex/drugs/rock-n-roll -- it was things like the very compelling portrayal of a serial killer mentality (the kelpie) and the character of Corny, particularly his way of thinking and his relationship with the spike-cloaked faerie. TITHE begs for a sequel and I wouldn't be surprised if the main evil in it would be Corny.--Rebekah (12 Sep 04)

When I talk about "sex and violence and the darker side of human nature" I refer to all the dark things in the book. I don't think disturbing characterization and deeds need to be the sole province of adult literature if the book has a moral center. That said, I was quite surprised TITHE was a young adult book, but not dismayed by the label. I remember chalking it up to teenagers being forced to deal with sophisticated issues at a younger age than ever, for good or bad. I don't remember enough about Corny to predict whether he is redeemable or not in the sequel Black is writing. Really, really looking forward to the sequel.--Preeti (12 Sep 04)

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