Author: Holly Black
Release: October 1st 2002
Genre: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Faeries, YA
#1 in the Modern Faerie Tales series
Sequel: Ironside, Companion novel: Valiant
Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms - a struggle that could very well mean her death.
We all have that one supernatural race that we love to death and where we'll take no shit. If you butcher them, you are going to be hated until your untimely demise. For me, that is faeries. And while I feared Black would do horrible things to them, she did alright in the end. I mean, I could name a few fey books that are better, but this is not as bad as in Paranormalcy for example.
The whole book, overall, was simply okay, but seeing as this was Holly Black's debut novel (I think, not counting her short stories) and it was released in 2002, I'm really fucking impressed, I have to say. The author does take some risks, such as having a gay main character, having the protagonist being a bad and irresponsible person etc etc, which, I can imagine, wasn't very common for that time. My respect for Holly Black just went up a few notches.
I think that Kaye lives in such vastly different circumstances than me is what made this so much more interesting. If I'd have to read through her boring normal routine life for the first half of the book, I'd have enjoyed this far less, and it's this that saved it for me. Because, yes, nothing really exciting did happen until very late, so reading about Kaye's extraordinary "thug life" existence was actually quite a nice scenery change, and not something I find often in YA literature. Especially since, again, seeing as it was published in 2002; it was actually shocking to see that, apparently, there have been these Kaye-kind of teenagers even back then.
Besides that, the plot was alright, it took its time, but when it got going, it was good. Of course, seeing as she had to squeeze all of it into 300 pages, it was a bit messy and ridiculous sometimes, but I'll forgive Black that (again, debut novel bonus). World development was a bit lacking, since I like my faery worlds and the Nevernever and I've seen very little of it in Tithe.
Characters... well. They were mediocre, not too annoying but I didn't bond with anyone, either, if you know what I mean. The character don't really stand out, don't do anything, but at least they're not terrible. And I'll say it a third time, I think that's okay since it was her first novel. Besides, since this, she has gotten so much better, seeing as the characters in her stand-alone The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, published this year (2013), had a very memorable cast of characters. So, I'll just see this as practice for her perfection later.
The only thing I really had a huge problem with was the romance, because Roiben and Kaye have spoken, I think, two times, and not exchanged many words at that may I add, when Kaye starts stealing kisses off of him. And, may I add again, one of those two times was the time when he half abused her in a cafe. There is one quote that summed it up nicely:
“How had he gone from being someone she half despised to being the one person was relying on, in a mere space of hours?”
How, indeed. It was a little frustrating, but, fortunately, later on Kaye put saving her friend above making out with her bf and she was saved from my strangles. Actually, their whole relationship was saved by her saying this, and by the end I thought they were kind of cute. Sort of. Although I still don't get why they fall for each other anyway.
My final verdict is that I'm really pleasantly surprised that Black was this good even back then. I mean, "good" in a sense of "This was much better than expected." And I would give this 3.5 stars if I wouldn't have to compare it to all the other books I have given that rating, and in that category, it doesn't quite compare to those, after all. Anyway though, Tithe is a nice, enjoyable enough read if you're looking for something light to pass the time.