Well, after hearing how Margaret and Preeti didn't know what to say about this book, it puts the pressure on. :-)
The heroine of Holly Black's VALIANT is 17-year-old Valerie Russell. After unexpectedly discovering an unforgivable betrayal by her mother, she reacts by taking off from home to New York City using some tickets she had already bought for a game. But, angry and hurt, she wanders around til she falls in with some other homeless teens that are living in the tunnels of the city's subway system.
A girl named Lolli quickly accepts Val and shares secrets about the existence of faerie folk living around them, using glamor to stay hidden. Dave is more reluctant to talk but can't control Lolli in any way and seems to live to try to please her. Luis, Dave's older brother, is not happy at all about the addition of Val to their band. Luis, it turns out, has "the sight" and can see the faerie through their glamor. But he doesn't take them as lightly as the others because he knows how dangerous they are. He's already under obligation to the troll, Ravus, to carry out his errands for a specific time before he can be free again. To add to the mix, there are faerie being killed.
I'm always amazed by how dark and gritty teen books can be nowadays. I can certainly see how this would be an attractive story to today's teen, so I don't know if it's the generation thing, but there is an introduction to the mix of a drug called Never that disturbed me. The things that were done while under the influence and the fact that the heroine fell so easily into using it bothered me a lot and took away a lot of enjoyment for me. On the other hand, Val reprieved herself in the end and was very heroic.
I did find the existence of the faerie in the modern world intriguing. There eventually was a romance in it that I enjoyed but also found rather unbelievable. But while I enjoyed probably two-thirds of the book, the third that I didn't like makes this a discommend for me.--Linda***
Linda caught a lot of my problems with this. The heroine becomes addicted to the "drug" in the book and does some very distasteful things under its influence for a long enough period that I was uncomfortable with the story.
A lot of teen books seem to tell these kinds of redemption stories now, and that's a good thing in some ways, but in another way it just seems to me to be a fine line between redemption and another sort of morality tale, going thud, thud, thud over your head.
I'll definitely pick up another Holly Black book because VALIANT and TITHE both had elements I really liked. I'd give this a recommend as a one-time read, but I am not as likely to reread it.
I also am not sure that the short form of the young adult novel allows Black enough space. Both books felt a little skimpy.
(For TITHE, I was also frustrated by the undercutting of the heroine's apparent ethnic heritage by her real heritage.)--Lynn (5 Oct 05)***
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 (6 Dec 05)***
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 (6 Dec 05)