For such a short book, I found it a slow start to get to the good stuff – you know, the urban fantasy part that had me check the book out. About halfway through Disc 2, things finally picked up and a lot of the teen angst, bickering, and wannabe clever remarks are left behind. Hanging with two brothers and a street girl (Lolli), who has a kitten, Valerie starts a slow spiral into the world of Faerie, drugs, and sex. She also makes the mistake of invading a troll’s hidden domain, messing with his items, and getting caught. Now she owes him 6 months servitude, which pretty much means cleaning up after him and making deliveries of his medicine to the various Faerie denizens exiled to the land of man and iron.
This book went up and down for me. At times, I was totally sucked into the story, hanging on the intensity of the scene, feeling very connected to Valerie, wincing with her mistakes and rooting for her in triumphs. Other times I wondered what the author, Holly Black, was trying to convey or where she wanted to take the story. My mind would drift and upon coming back didn’t seem to miss the anecdotal goings on of the main characters.
Lots of drug references clutter this book up, and at times I wondered why Valerie’s nickname was ‘Valiant’ as she spends some quality time blowing off those who care, stealing, and degrading herself. While realistic, I often felt I was reading two separate novels as these aspects didn’t fully mesh with the other Valerie – the one who learns sword fighting, serves a troll, and unravels the mystery of the murdered Fae.
The best parts of this novel where those dealing with the beings of Faerie, watching Val struggle to find her way, not get killed, and come out with her skin in tact. Those sections were exceptionally well written, having purpose, intensity, connection. However, the in between bits were dull in comparison and at times didn’t seem to fit the story at all. Will I try another Holly Black novel? Probably. I crave those intense scenes and I know she can write them well.
Our narrator, Renee Raudman, was a very good fit for this book. She gave Val a practical, determined voice, performed all the various, creepy, haunting Fae well, and had a variety of young male voices. Oh, and she made Val’s mom sound like a self-centered vapid human, just like I pictured her.