Book review: Tithe

A darkly mesmerising tale of wickedly beautiful fae creatures, one spunky pixie-girl, a sinfully beautiful fairy knight and the intricate world of politics within the fairy courts.

Tithe by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster)
I have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this book.

You see, as much as I love books about faeries (I’m a huge fan of anything fey related really), my disappointment with previous books dealing with fae (The Wicked Lovely series in particular) have prevented me from picking up another read within this genre.

When I saw this at the library, I decided (rather reluctantly) to take it out and give it a read, if only to confirm that my thoughts about faerie books are well-justified.

Never in my life have I been more surprised by a book, than I was with Holly Black’s Tithe.     

I absolutely cannot believe I’ve been missing out on such a fantastically written book. Not only that, I think I may have found the book that has restored my faith in this genre and will have be giving more books about fae a chance again.

First thing that should be said: if you’re not a fan of darkly alluring and grungy YA fiction, then you’re probably not going to like this.

However, if you, like me, are a fan of gritty fantasy fiction with a no-holds barred approach to content that would make readers sensitive to this kind of content balk, then you will without a doubt, adore this book as much as I do.

 Holly Black is an absolute master at blending and combining gritty urban settings with the cruel, wondrously strange and wickedly beautiful world of the fae. 

The fairies you encounter in this book are by no means the fluttery and sparkly winged creatures – but rather sinister and sly and not at all that they appear to be. 

In this book, the lines between good and evil blur as the capricious nature of these very beings prove that belonging in one world doesn’t necessarily mean that their character is, by association, the same.

Tithe kicks off when we first meet Kaye, a 16-year old teen who travels with her mother from place to place and club to club.

As a young girl, Kaye has always been able to see fairies, but it’s only when her mother is nearly killed and the two of them move to her grandmother’s place, that Kaye’s own dormant magic begins to manifest, causing her to come to the realisation she may not be as human as she once thought she was.

When she comes to the aid of Roiben, an injured and beautiful fairy knight, she inadvertently becomes embroiled in a realm of shadowy secrets and dark fairy court intrigue, unwittingly setting herself up as a pawn in a deadly and ancient struggle between two rival courts.

At the same time, she also has to learn how to master her new found magical abilities, try not to get killed and figure our whether or not the beautiful white knight returns her feelings.

If you love heroines kick-ass, feisty and brave-to-the-point-of-actually-being-stupid heroines, then you’re going to love Kaye. Both book and street smart, she’s a girl that shows us that she’s not afraid to tackle the unknown. 

In fact, her fearlessness, which often translates itself into recklessness, combined with her natural sense of curiosity often gets her into trouble. 

What I also loved about her though, is that beneath the devil-may-care attitude, there’s a vulnerable girl lurking in the shadows, often making herself known when it comes to her insecurity when she’s around Roiben.

That there is an attraction between the two is obvious, although the fact that Roiben makes an effort to hide his feelings for her, made it difficult to decipher whether or not he was being sincere in his actions towards Kaye (Holly Black is so good at doing ambivalence).

Roiben himself, is an interesting character. With his long white hair and his cool and aloof exterior, like Kaye, I was never quite sure about his motives.

Luckily for us, Holly fortunately allows the reader a glimpse of Roiben’s thoughts; showing a side to him that certainly made me swoon.

I do have to add that it was very interesting to see how Roiben’s detached exterior served to play such a vitally important role in the book, especially when it came to the political intrigue within the fae courts. 

Once I actually understood the reason for his cool reserve, I realised just how intricate and clever Roiben’s character design fit into the grand scheme of things.

The fairy court rivalry is another treat to read all about.

Holly clearly shows an immense understanding of how to create a world filled with vicious and beautiful depravity, as well as accurately capturing the blood-thirsty and fickle nature of the various creatures found in Tithe.

What especially kept me fascinated is the fact that the battle lines between the Bright Court and the Dark Court are not all that clear cut. While some villains are obvious, you can’t help but get a sense that there is more to some characters that aren’t definite suspects.

The shimmery glamour of the fae world both hides and reveals intentions that are both good and cruel and Kaye’s magical transformation from human to fae, only serves to reveal that no matter in which world you dwell in, that all is not always what it seems.

Holly Black’s Tithe is a book that constantly kept me on my toes. The twists and turns are wicked in their cleverness and the characters are fantastic. If you’re looking for a YA novel that is deliciously dark and full of contradictions, Tithe is definitely a book that you should read.


Jenny said…
Hmmmm, I'm super curious about this one Tammy! I'm a fan of the darker stories, and the grungy aspect of this one is really appealing to me. I've heard such great things about Holly Black, but I haven't read any books by her, and now I definitely want to pick this series up as well as her White Cat (I think that's the title) series. Beautiful review as always!
Anonymous said…
See...I told you you'll like Holly Black, but don't forget to check out her graphic novels. They're amazing to :)
Krystianna said…
This one sounds pretty good. I'm going to have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

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