Thursday, January 11, 2007

Valiant; Holly Black

Written by Holly Black (link in title above) and published by Simon and Schuster in 2005, Valiant is a young adult urban fantasy. The first in this series is Tithe, which I read a while ago, and the next is Ironside which is coming in May.

Valiant, ultimately, is a tale of a teenage girl too easily led, too often betrayed and who finds her backbone and sense of purpose very nearly too late. Ms. Black mentions somewhere in the first few pages that someone close to her likes ‘angsty heroines’ or something similar. I didn’t find Valerie Russell angsty, but I found myself alternately cringing and wishing I could reach out and grab Val and haul her to safety.

Val stays in NYC one night instead of returning home to Jersey. Next day she hooks up with a little band of runaway teens and stays in the city. Living precariously (to put it mildly) on the fringes, Val makes a series of bad decisions simply by going along with the crowd. She ends up couriering drugs for a fey troll named Ravus because she’s snooping around where she doesn’t belong and ends up owing him service for a month.

Bad goes to worse when fey beings of various types start dying all over the city. Who is killing them? Why? Meanwhile Ravus begins teaching Val swordsmanship. Eventually she’s proficient, but makes another error in judgement and mires herself deeper in threatening circumstances. She still refuses to return home, more out of pride and malicious manipulation rather than anything else, IMO. It’s hard to go against the grain when you’re a teen- especially someone like Val.

The situation with the murders becomes dire. More and more fey blame Ravus, which perplexes Val because she’s too blind to see what’s actually going on around her. In the end Val finds her wits and courage and backbone just barely in time to save both her friends, Ravus and herself.

Valiant is much more heart wrenching and painful than Tithe, partly due to the circumstances Val finds herself in and due to Val’s mistakes in judgement that cost her so dearly. My maternal side popped up often and I wanted to pull Val to safety and shake her for being such an idiot. Roiben shows up again, in what seemed to me to be a very ambiguous light (just like the best antiheroes, lol). There are positive events at the end, which really made me hopeful. Poor Val goes through a hell of a lot before getting herself back on track.

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