Book Review – Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale

Author: Holly Black

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: May 31st, 2005

Pages: 331



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.

tithe cover

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.)

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The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra Bracken Review

The Darkest Minds Cover via Goodreads

The Darkest Minds Cover via Goodreads

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Published: 2012

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Length: 528 pages



Ruby Daly awakes on her tenth birthday to find that her parents have no idea who she is. Ruby lives in a world where children ages ten to seventeen are often inflicted with an incurable disease that gives them unbridled power. No one knows what brings about the condition and there is no apparent cure. Ruby’s parents fear that she is a run away and therefore dangerous, calling in the government’s special forces to take her away to a rehabilitation camp for ill children in her native state of Virginia.

Ruby spends the next six years in the worst camp in the United States. Classified by colors to identify each camper’s type of ability, Ruby and all her fellow campers are treated as prisoners and are kept under strict watch. They are unable to voice their opinions, to learn about the outside world, or to interact with family members. They are told that their powers make them freaks and that they should under no circumstances attempt to control or use their powers, that they will simply be killed as using such powers puts everyone at risk.

When Ruby has a once in a life time chance to escape her fate, she takes it. Not knowing how much she can trust her rescuer she knows this is her only true chance at survival. The outside world is desolate and barren. People are rarely seen, and those that are become agitated quickly. Everyone is defensive and fearful.

Ruby quickly learns that her rescuers may not be as truthful as she once thought and again, finds a way to escape them. It is then that she finds Zu, Chubs and Liam other camp escapees who traveled across state lines in hopes of finding a rumored Slip Kid. The Slip Kid is supposed to provide a safe haven for kids like Ruby, Chubs, Zu and Liam. The only problem is, the location of the Slip Kid’s camp is secret.

As Ruby and her new found friends venture to find others like them, to reconnect with their families and to find some sort of stability in a crumbling world, the kids each learn about themselves, their abilities and each other. They find that appearances are often not as they seem and they must constantly make choices between what is stable and what is right.

The Darkest Minds does not hold back on action, brutality or intrigue. While Ruby battles with learning to accept who she really is and what her powers allow her to do, she must also learn to adapt to those around her, to understand that there can never truly be a normal life after her experiences at camp. That a family is something she will likely never know again.

While The Darkest Minds is like a mashup of the Xmen and The Hunger Games. The power struggle and abilities provide unique opportunities to their owners, but the landscape and environment of the world presents dire consequences for exposing yourself or trusting others too lightly.

The Darkest Minds is the first book in the Darkest Minds Trilogy. The second novel, Never Fade and the conclusion to the trilogy, In the Afterlight are available at major book retailers. The Darkest Minds trilogy also boasts two novellas, In Time (which takes place between books 1 and 2) and Sparks Rise (which takes place between books 2 and 3). You can learn more about Alexandria Bracken’s works on her website.

Cinder Review

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: 2012

Length: 390 pages

Publisher: Square Fish



In Cinder (Lunar Chronicles 1), by Marissa Meyer, we are introduced to Cinder, a sixteen year old cyborg living in New Beijing, a hundred and twenty six years after the fourth world war. In this world, androids, cyborgs, moon people (Lunars) and a rampant pandemic are a part of everyday life. Cinder lives with her adoptive family, made up of her step-mother, Adri and two sisters, Pearl and Peony. Her adoptive father, who, against his wife’s wishes, insisted on taking Cinder in when she was orphaned, passed away in a tragic accident that Adri will forever blame on Cinder. Adri spares no opportunity to remind Cinder that her worth is lessened by her missing human anatomy. While a rampant pandemic spreads throughout the world and threatens her nation’s own Emperor, Cinder is living the typical life of a cyborg – she has her job as a mechanic (the best in all of New Beijing) and is forever in service to her guardian family. Cinder’s world begins to change when the Emperor’s own son, Prince Kai finds her in the marketplace insisting she help to fix his outdated and seemingly useless tutor android that mysteriously stopped working. Meanwhile, the insatiable moon dwelling (Lunar) ruler, Queen Levana is determined to get a foothold in the earth’s politics and laws through through the guise of a peace-keeping marriage agreement with none other than Prince Kai. The Queen’s pressure to solidify the marriage agreement becomes more persuasive as the Emperor’s health continues to fail. As she learns more about Prince Kai’s android, and those closest to her become threatened by the pandemic, Cinder finds herself becoming a central part of keeping her nation, and the world’s future safe.

Cinder gives us a refreshing look at how despite your background, appearance or perceived worth, you can make a difference in the world if you are persistent and refuse to give up on what you believe in.

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