Books · reviews

A review of Tithe: a modern, if slightly dated, faerie tale

Tithe
By Holly Black
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe by Holly Black

Rating: 7/10

I recently read Holly Black’s new book The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (which I loved), and that inspired me to read her debut Young Adult novel: Tithe.

Tithe is about the sixteen-year-old Kaye, a high school dropout who travels around the country with her wannabe rock star mother, Ellen. When Kaye’s mother is attacked, they’re forced to move back to New Jersey (THE HORROR!) and live with her grandmother. There, Kaye tries to reconnect with her childhood friends (faeries) and ends up getting involved in an ancient power struggle between two rival kingdoms.

After reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Tithe seems like a more simplified universe. Black’s writing seems to have evolved a lot since Tithe, which I’m grateful for, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book in its own right. I’d recommend it for younger readers, but not too young as there are a lot of more mature parts to the book. Black’s writing, though not overly descriptive, does a good job of setting the scene and constructing a believable magical world, even if it isn’t a very complex magical world.

I liked the concept of the book a lot. The faeries of Tithe aren’t nice. They’re more like intelligent versions of the blue Cornish pixies of Harry Potter than Cinderella’s fairy godmother or Tinkerbell. They’re more human with faults and hidden motives galore; if I were Kaye I wouldn’t trust any of them.

Imagine us all sacrificing humans and stuff. Whee!
Imagine us sacrificing humans and stuff. Whee!

Perhaps because I’m no longer the ideal demographic, I felt like the “big twist” was a bit predictable, but there were other aspects I really didn’t see coming. A scene involving a kelpie at a Halloween rave comes to mind, but I don’t want to spoil things for you too much. The book seemed a little dated eleven years on, but not in a really distracting way.

The story was interesting enough to keep me reading, but I also enjoyed the fact that Black’s human characters aren’t all cookie-cutter. Kaye is a rebel. She’s got some attitude in her, and is a bit of a punk, but on a deeper level, she craves a sense of belonging, which she has never gotten from the transient lifestyle her mother provides. Corny is probably one of the only non-stereotypical gay characters I’ve ever read in a YA book, and is more than just a background character.

I’m not going to go into all of the characters, but I will say I wish there had been more scenes with Roiben (think faerie!Legolas) in them. Not just for the love-interest aspect of his character, but because I genuinely want to know more about him. I felt like Black could have spent a lot more time fleshing the characters out. The book was short enough that there was definitely more room to explore the characters. In the end, while this was an easy read and the plot moved along quickly, I wish Black would have spent a little bit more time on the characters.

That said, I’ve ordered the second book in the Modern Faerie Tale trilogy (Valiant), so I’m looking forward to reading that when it arrives. In the meantime, if you’re looking for an easy read with a bit of magic and creativity, I’d give Tithe a go.

Has anyone else read Tithe? Was it a lot better to read as a teenager? Leave your thoughts below 🙂

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