Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: May 31st, 2005
Seventeen year old Kaye has had a particularly challenging life. From not fitting in (and even her best friend thinking her head is always in the clouds), to moving around often and having a fairly dysfunctional family life, Kaye has to balance undue adult responsibilities with being a teenager who no one quite understands. Kaye’s mom is a struggling musician with a creep for a boyfriend. A fight with the boyfriend causes Kaye and her family to uproot from the city and go back home to grandma’s house in New Jersey.
Kaye tries to fit in with her old best friend Janet again, though it’s been years since they’ve seen each other. As Kaye mingles with Janet’s new crowd of friends, she discovers that there’s still something about her that is a bit off kilter from the rest of the group. Janet remember’s Kaye’s fascination with the fairy (fae) friends (Gristle, Lutie-Loo, and Spike) that occupied much of Kaye’s free time. Because Kaye wasn’t even a teenager when she first left Jersey, she doesn’t doubt it when her friends and family suggest her fae friends were simply a part of her active imagination. Still, upon returning to Jersey, Kaye couldn’t help but think about her old fairy companions.
Now years older, Kaye learns that her ability to talk to and see the fairies is no mistake, she has a true connection to their world. Kaye is a changeling, an immortal who was swapped at birth with a human baby. Kaye’s role in the fairy world is significant, she is to be a sacrifice, the “tithe” that will allow the Unseelie court to bind solitary fae folk to the Unseelie court’s queen.
Through Black’s Fae world, we explore the ideas of the Seelie and Unseelie courts. While these historically accurate titles are adapted to Black’s world, the sense of light vs dark is noticeable. While the Seelie Court is not perfect, the Unseelie Court is downright scary. Black’s descriptions of the Unseelie are brutal and eerily mysterious. Many scenes read like something out of a Tim Burton film.
Tithe explores friendship, personal growth, and fantasy in a fast paced package. Kaye is in no way perfect, she has troubling family issues, yet she always seems to keep her head above water. From her unique appearance to her complicated friendships and the weight of knowing her role in the fae world will affect everyone.
Fans of Amanda Hocking and Marissa Meyer (read my review of Meyer’s Cinder here) who haven’t read Black’s work should enjoy this novel. While Tithe was published years before Hocking and Meyer’s popular works, the same light hearted, fun fantasy and paranormal elements are here. Like so many other fantastic female leads in YA novels, Kaye is the type of character we NEED in YA novels. She doesn’t always know how she’s going to accomplish her goals, but she marches forward, determined to succeed.
I’m curious to see what Tithe’s follow-up novel Valiant (Modern Faerie Tales #2) has to offer. (John Green’s reference to this second novel played a large part in peeking my interest in reading Tithe in the first place.)