Review: Valiant by Holly Black

January 12, 2015 Review 32 ★★★★

Review: Valiant by Holly Black
Valiant by Holly Black
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Purchased
Pages: 336
Release Date: September 27th 2012
Series: Modern Faerie Tales #2
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy, General, Young Adult
When seventeen-year-old Valerie runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system.

But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends.
And when one talks Val into tracking down the lair of a mysterious creature with whom they are all involved, Val finds herself torn between her newfound affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.

The first thing that struck me about Valiant was how good the writing was. I read it coming off of another book that I enjoyed but had a hard time getting through due to bad pacing and clunky writing, and Valiant was certainly a stark contrast to that. The writing flows very nicely and creates strong imagery while still maintaining a unique character voice.

The book is in third person personal following the protagonist Val, who is the daughter of a trashy but (usually) well meaning lower middle class single mom in New Jersey. When Val’s boyfriend cheats on her with her (usually) well meaning mom, Val runs away to NYC to try to sort out her emotions. Soon after arriving though, she gets caught up in a faerie-drug dealing-murder plot and finds herself unable and unwilling to return home. Throughout the rest of the book Val faces the realities and consequences of being a teenage runaway in New York while simultaneously dueling faeries and hunting for a murderer.

buffy fighting gif.
My favorite things about Holly Black’s books is that she takes on heavy topics that many YA authors shy away from, such as sex and drugs, and weaves them into a crazy fantasy plot about murderous faeries in a way that seems realistic and carries all of the gravity of an adult book about the same topics. She does not fail to disappoint on that front in this book.

I thought all of the characters were well written and I really liked Val. She seems very real, and while she makes a lot of mistakes (which is good!), she is a generally a good person and the reader gets to see her struggling with the moral aspects of many of the decisions that she makes. The supporting characters are also relatively dynamic, one of whom is a troll. (Sort of spoiler: the love interest!)

.As far as romance goes, there is certainly a lot of sex (though none of it graphic) and a small amount of mutually consenting romance where both parties know who they are kissing and have actual feelings for each other.

The plot was probably the weakest part of the novel. I enjoyed it, but the ending was pretty predictable and there were no huge exciting plot twists or anything. It definitely had that standalone feel where I got to the end of the book and then thought, “this is it? I guess they had an exciting adventure, but they did not save the world or anything”.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, though not quite enough for it to earn a place on my obsessive-reread-over-and-over list. .

Rating Report
Overall: 4.3

32 Responses to “Review: Valiant by Holly Black”

  1. Bec

    I read Tithe YEARS ago and for some reason never continued the series (I think the library didn’t have this one). That makes me sad because Val sounds AWESOME. The lack of plot is something that worries me a little, but I can probably overlook that as long as there’s good characters and good writing.

    Great review, Rachel!

    • Rachel

      I might have overemphasized how boring the plot was; I honestly don’t even know anymore. It definitely did not stick in my head the way the characters and writing did.

    • Rachel

      Yes, this book is pretty good. It is part of her Modern Faerie Tales “series” but they are all about different people and as such can be read as standalone as well. It is awesome and interesting!

  2. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    It can be super refreshing to read an author who’s a pro at their craft, especially after coming off a so-so book. A weak plot, and predictable ending aren’t exactly things that I want to see mentioned in a review, but seeing how you still gave this novel 4+ stars, Black’s delivery must have been something else!
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Hunted by a Jaguar by Felicity Heaton

    • Rachel

      I don’t know, the plot wasn’t that bad. It was just not very original. And Holly Black’s delivery is always something else. :)

    • Rachel

      I used to be frustrated with the writing in modern books too– but I have found that if you look in the right places (not just in the top ten bestsellers) you can find lots of new books that are written well. Especially since the YA genre is bigger now than it has ever been in the past!

    • Rachel

      Val is awesome, but I think I liked Tithe better because it had a better plot among various other reasons.So I guess I’m trying to say that if you are going to reread one of Holly Black’s Faerie books, make it Tithe. But that’s just my opinion.

      Also Darkest Part of the Forest is out today, so go read that! I am totally excited!

    • Rachel

      Read Tithe. It has great characters too, except the plot is better. In my opinion, at least.
      Also her new book is out today, so you can try that too.

    • Rachel

      Yes! Definitely one of the best among YA fantasy writers. I really like when the (preferably urban) fantasy is infused with life stuff, And Holly Black does an excellent job at this. I have a hard time reading straight contemporaries, so I need my life stuff to be coated in magic (oh no, now I’m making it sound like medicine– that was not intended).

  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    THIS MAKES ME SO EXCITED!! I just found Holly Black and I LOVE her books! I’ve read the Curseworker trilogy (minus the last book, but I’ll be onto that asap) and then The Darkest Part of the Forest and Coldest Girl in Coldtown and I lovelovelove them all so much. This series is my next Holly Black project. And I’m sooo glad you rated it high!
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…I Was Here by Gayle Forman || And now I’m leaving

    • Rachel

      Ugh, I am so jealous of you. How did you get yours hands on an ARC of Darkest Part of the Forest? Well, I comes out in a couple days, so not much longer to wait. Have you read Holly Black’s middle grade books? They are actually pretty good too, even as someone who reads mostly (80% or so) YA.
      Anyways, have fun with her Faerie books!

  4. Molly Mortensen

    I’ve been meaning to read another Holly Black book. I just decided to go with the Curse Workers trilogy instead of this one. (They were cheap)

    I’m not a big fan of the runaway thing, but faeries makes it all better. I have to like the characters or the book almost always falls flat. A troll love interest? That sounds so good!

    I’m sorry this one didn’t blow your socks off. I personally don’t like the lots of sex thing, so I’m hoping that isn’t the case for all her books. Nice review! :) (and nice to meet you Rachel)
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

    • Rachel

      Hey! Nice to meet you too, Molly!
      The runaway thing isn’t that much of the plot, if you are worried about that. And as you said, Faeries make everything better.
      This author is well known for dealing with heavy topics, but I really haven’t read enough of her books to be able to tell you about the sex thing in particular.

  5. Alise

    So I just checked Goodreads and apparently I read Tithe and Ironside, skipping over this one completely. I’m thinking the library just didn’t have it. I do remember the books dealing with heavier topics though, like you mentioned. Those are real issues for teens so I think it’s important they are talked about in fiction sometimes.

    • Rachel

      How have you forgotten that you read them? I thought they were good enough books to stick in one’s memory. Anyways, you don’t even need to read them in order– they are not really a series– so you’re fine.

  6. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I’m kind of confused…. in the summary it says book 2 (and I distinctly remember that there’s a book called Tithe) but it seems like the book doesn’t connect to anything else?

    Anyways, I really want to read this. I’ve read a couple of books by Holly Black already and I think she’s really skilled in what she does. Glad to see that this one is no exception.

    Great review, Rachel!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…{Movie Review} Into the Woods

    • Rachel

      So all three of the books take place in the same world and in loosely sequential order, but they have different protagonists and plots. Tithe is the first one, but you really don’t have to read them in order. I read them in the order of which blurbs interested me most.

      Definitely give this a try– Holly Black has a new book, as you might know, and I am super excited to read it, so the review will probably end up here eventually.

    • Rachel

      If you like urban fantasy, you should definitely read something by her! She’s one of the best out there in her genre.

      Yeah, I (generally) get kind of bored or disinterested with contemporaries (there are exceptions of course) so it is really nice to find authors and books that aren’t afraid to tackle “hard topics” but also infuse them with elements of fantasy. I think that is one of the main reasons I like reading urban fantasy so much. It is sort of the best of everything, all in one very interesting book.

    • Rachel

      Like I told the previous commenter, if you like urban fantasy, Holly black is definitely a great author to read. She writes very well and gives you lots to think about.

    • Rachel

      I mean, it depends. When I reread books, I obviously know what is going to happen, but I like the way it happens enough that I want to read it anyways. So yeah I see where you are coming from. I think that in this case, I personally was looking for something with a slightly more interesting plot so I was a bit disappointed.

      Don’t worry about reading them out of order– they take place in the same world, but they are not really a series.

    • Rachel

      Yeah. Also she has a new one out– The Darkest Part of the Forest. I am reading it right now and so far it is great!

  7. Olivia

    Oh noes, I am not a fan of predictable endings to books! It’s a shame this fell underneath that, but otherwise it seems like a good book with nice characters and written well. I have never read a Holly Black book before and really want to!
    Olivia recently posted…Planning Your Story (Guest Post)

    • Rachel

      Read her newest book! It is called Darkest Part of the Forest and it is really really good and not so much of a predictable ending!

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