Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale – Holly Black


3.9 out of 5

Spoilers ahead.

T:AMFT was first published in 2002 and was written by Holly Black – most famous for her series The Spiderwick Chronicles – and I had high hopes for this story. It follows a sixteen-year-old girl named Kaye who is described as a modern nomad. She travels across America with her mother (who I personally feel is a pretty bad role model) who is a singer in a rock band. But then her mother’s boyfriend tries to murder her so they are forced to move back into the home of Kaye’s grandmother. And then the faeries arrive…

I am so conflicted with my feelings for this book.

I liked it. I really did like it – I liked the lore and the characters; I especially liked how everything was described so I could imagine it all in vivid detail. The characters were unconventional in their appearances – like a lot of the time creatures are white washed, but Kaye is straight up green skinned when her “glamour” is removed and I like that it took on that kind of arc instead of pretty little white girl pixie.

Of course there was Lutie – the typical Tinkerbell faerie but she wasn’t really there a lot.

It was interesting to read a book from back in 2002 that included a gay character and that he was a good character. He was flawed and borderline psychotic; he had an obsession with manga and had a masochistic streak. Also, he has possibly my favourite coming out story every. So Star Trek. Much Spirk. I felt that Corny was a little too quick to just accept that Kaye was a pixie and jump on board to help her and from that point he was just obsessed with the one guy… That bugged me.

I didn’t like how there were so many parts of the story that didn’t really have an explanation – it was like the plot was established before the book began and no one but Holly Black knew what the heck was going on. There was no real explanation as to how Kaye could see the faeries when she was younger – just because she is a Changling and technically a pixie herself, it is just pushed onto the reader that this weird girl has always had these faery friends.

The pacing of the story also felt very disjointed. Sometimes an event would happen that was so painstakingly slow that I had to resist the urge to skip a few pages whilst others were way too quick. There was never really a proper balance. Also, when Kaye’s best friend dies so suddenly and stupidly, it felt like Finnick all over again! It was just a pointless death for the sake of padding out the plot for a little bit. I know that in dire situations such as that one there were going to be some casualties but to chose that specific character and just drown her. Not to mention that said character’s brother is the gay masochist who has no idea his sister has just been killed because he’s been enslaved by the sadistic faeries knight who likes to treat him roughly…

However, the human aspects of the book were brutally honest and I found that very entertaining. Kaye wasn’t a prim and proper character – she was a drop-out but smart, she was weird and proud of it, she smoked and drank. She was a flawed character but interesting to read. A lot of the time in novels with female protagonists, the author tries to make them perfect – like they have this template handed to them by Disney on how to create the ‘ideal’ female heroine. Kaye broke that mould and showed a genuine side of teenage life that people tend to try and gloss over. Even Corny had some redeeming features – despite how quick he was to accept the concept of his friend turning out to be a bright green pixie with black eyes and a sudden disgust for all things metal, it was nice to see a character be there for a friend during a tough time. But of course he’s turned into a terrified little puppy by the end of the book because the friend he went out of his way to help left him alone during a faery part…

Not to mention that the relationship between Kaye and Rath Roiben Rye felt so rushed and really creepy. They’ve known each other for practically a week and are acting as though they’ve been in love for decades.

The final negative point on the characters was the treatment of Kaye’s grandmother. She just wants to see her daughter and granddaughter do well in life – she acknowledges her daughter’s talent but wants her to grow out of the rebelious state she had been in for the majority of her life. Both Kaye and her mother are so rude to the woman who let them back into her home, gave them food and shelter and made sure they were okay. All she wanted was for Kaye to turn her life around and actually go to school. But she was treated like scum and that didn’t sit right with me.

Honestly, the stupidity scale was often off of the chart with this story.

However, as much as I was torn with my rating and really had to push myself through some parts of this book, I do intend to read it’s sequels, Valiant and Ironside, just to see if they can beat this story.


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