Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Review: Valiant

Valiant: a modern tale of faerie by Holly Black
4 stars

When Valerie Russell discovers she's been betrayed by two of the most important people in her life, she runs away to New York City. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she meets Dave and Lolli in a coffee shop. They take her back to the subway tunnel where they live. There she meets Luis, Dave's one-eyed brother who apparently has The Sight.

After spending the night in the tunnel, Val tags along with Dave as he delivers a mysterious bottle to a woman with goat hooves instead of feet. Intrigued, Val makes Lolli show her the secret lair of the creature they're delivering for - a troll named Ravus. When Lolli tries to steal from him, Val trades Lolli's life for a month of service to Ravus. As Val delivers more bottles, it becomes apparent that faerie folk are dying throughout the city and rumour has it that Ravus is responsible.

The tunnel gang has discovered something about the strange liquid - while it's a medicine for faeries, it can be smoked or shot up by humans, giving them the ability to make things change shape and to make people agree to their every demand. They've named it Never (as in Never Never Land) and Val becomes addicted to it. In the scenes where the kids are roaming around the city hopped up on it, you can really see why it's addictive - they can get anything they want and be anything they want.

Val also finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Ravus, who, after she saves his life, agrees to teach her the art of sword-fighting. The works its way up to a faerie-human struggle for the truth and for Ravus' life. Only Val, if she can clear her mind of Never, can save herself, her friends and Ravus.

I loved Holly Black's first novel, Tithe: a modern faerie tale, and this one didn't disappoint. Valiant is almost a sequel, with a few characters and events mentioned, but you don't need to read the first one for this one to be great. There are no Disney, Tinkerbellish faeries here - they're almost all amoral and cruel (and hardly any of them are cute). Black has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about faeries. Her descriptions of the different creatures - including faeries, a tree spirit, and a mermaid - are really vivid.

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