Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie
Holly Black. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $17.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86822-1
When 17-year-old Valerie Russell finds her boyfriend having sex with her mother, she splits Jersey for Manhattan, takes in a Rangers game and falls in with some creepy homeless teens who live on an abandoned subway platform. They survive by rooting through trash, and shoot up to take the edge off their urine-scented, rat-infested existence. It isn't until Val realizes that they're shooting up faerie drugs that this unevenly paced companion to Black's debut novel, Tithe, takes off. Val joins her fellow squatters as a courier for the faerie healer Ravus, a troll who, in a Beauty-and-the-Beast-inspired twist, becomes Val's romantic interest while turning her skills with a lacrosse stick into prowess with a sword. But Val succumbs to addiction, siphoning Ravus's potion for personal thrills. When she finds one of the troll's customers (a mermaid) murdered, she gets caught in the internecine politics of rival faerie courts. Black draws on a grab bag of fairy and folk motifs to create a labyrinthine plot with a decidedly dark edge in a narrative rife with expletives. Val, though sympathetic, is not as memorable as Tithe's Kaye, and that book's fans may miss the trips into the enchanted faerie world. The squatters' actions spiral inexorably toward a death, but the victim turns out to be a cop-in a horrifying incident that is never mentioned again. The climax connects with the plot of Black's first novel, and fans of Tithe will probably stick with the long build-up to get to the exciting finish. Ages 14-up.
Reviewed on: 05/30/2005