Book reviews

Valiant – Holly Black

Release date: October 2006
Rating: ★★★★★★★★ – 8/10
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Valiant (Modern Faerie Tales, #2) blurb:

In the realm of faerie…

When seventeen-year-old Valerie runs away to New York City, she’s trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters living in the city’s labyrinthine subway system.

But there’s something eerily beguiling about Val’s new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters and shoots up a shimmery powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there’s Luis’ brother Dave, who makes the mistake of taking Val along as he makes a delivery to a woman who has goat hooves instead of feet.

When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of a mysterious creature, she is soon torn between her growing affection for an honourable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.

I liked this, but it felt like a totally different series to Tithe, which I also found quite strange, until towards the end when the two worlds started to collide.

The plot for Valiant was definitely more involved. The story starts with Val, who is dealing with some pretty shitty circumstances in her life. She runs away to the city of New York and ends up being ‘adopted’ by some other runaways. Enter Lolli, Luis and Dave. These guys have seen some stuff, and consequently are kind of fucked up. And while I mean that in the nicest sense, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Some more crazy shit happens, and then Val has to face the consequences of that (enter Ravus), which is actually where the story starts to get equally awesome, and equally more screwed up.

In terms of characters, I need to put it out here: I hated Lolli as soon as she was introduced, and to be honest, I wasn’t really that keen on Val either. Dave is an asshole, and Luis comes across as arrogant, but he’s probably the best of them all. They all do some really questionable stuff, and morally, they’re all grey (probably more like charcoal) characters, so I questioned why I didn’t like them as that’s usually my schtick. It turns out that while I like morally grey characters, they also need to display a teensy bit of remorse for their actions, so when Val starts doing this, that was when my like of her kicked in. It’s likely why I also didn’t hate Luis totally. But Dave and Lolli – they’re dead to me.

Let’s talk about Ravus. For a character that was really only in about a third of the book, I really liked him. In fact, I wish he had a bigger part, but I also understand why he needed such a long introduction. Also a morally grey character, he had reasons and motives, and he didn’t continuously blame others or self-pity. He was good to read about, and I constantly found myself wishing there was more of him.

Given this was another urban fantasy, I thought the mix of the ‘real’ world, and the fae world and mythology was really well done. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Holly Black is a great Fae world writer.

The follow-on from the previous novel was hard to see at first. It seemed like the same world, but the characters were so different, and instead of being set in Fae, it was set more in the real world. However, the end of the book mentions the events of Tithe, so how it all fits together became clearer.

Despite my utter lack of faith regarding the characters to begin with, and no clue about whether it tied to the first book, or was some weird standalone series, I ended up really liking this. I can honestly say that without Ravus’ story this book would probably have been rated 6 stars, and I still wasn’t totally sold on the others, but one of them totally got what they deserved (and that’s all I’m saying about that).