Review: Valiant by Holly Black

Saturday, January 25, 2014
Why I chose this book:
I originally read this book as a freshman in high school (I am a college graduate now), and I decided to give this series a reread, considering all the growing up I have done over the past nearly decade. I remember not truly enjoy this book; and I will now say that even back then my tastes were still good, because very little changed in my opinion of this novel.

Valiant by Holly Black 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: May 31, 2005
Format: Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

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. (Goodreads)

 4 things you need to know about this book:

   1. Banned books list
   So no surprise here, this book, as well as the entire A Modern Faerie Tale series, is on the banned books list. Because this deals with so many touchy topics, it is understood why it was considered a banned book; however, it provokes the question: if teenagers face the exact same issues that Val does in this book, why should it be kept from mass reading? I also admit that the question goes for any book on the banned list.

   2. Sex, lore, and other drugs
        A) Sex: Valiant deals with a lot of sex and discussed sexual desires and fantasies. Nothing is erotically explicit, but it is quite clear nonetheless. One character, Lolli, is depicted as wishy-washy and a slight nymphomaniac when it comes to her sexual desires with Luis, and such is the burden of unrequited love, Luis will have none of it, while Dave pines away and will do anything to even just fantasize that he could sleep with Lolli. There are a lot of jaded issues here in this book, especially with Val’s friends, but they are not the only ones. Val’s mother and ex-boyfriend, Tom, are found going at it on the couch in the first chapter of the book. Needless to say, sex is rampant, and not always explained in the most healthy of ways; actually, all the sex in this book is twisted and jaded and serves a selfish purpose and has nothing remotely to do with a ‘pure’ love.

       B) Lore: Faerie lore is the basis for this book, though I observed that very little faerie lore was used. Granted Black included Seelie and Unseelie Courts as well as a number of mythological characters; but other than that, I didn’t see any make up from old faerie lore. I thought Tithe was much better at explaining faerie lore than Valiant

       C) Other Drugs: This book has a lot of drug use in it as well as drug addictions, and our protagonist is not immune to such tendencies. The drug used in this book is called Nevermore; it is used much like heroin and given intravenously. There’s a lot of shooting up and hallucinogenic scenes that happen post shoot-up. I thought Black’s description of the way the drug felt in her veins, very well worded, but I also thought that it was odd that Val never saw the drug as truly bad. She saw it as a means of strength and power; not of weakness. There was only one instance that she put off taking it for a specific reason, but other than that, she was like a drug addict most of the book. And this is kind of random, but she had some crazy coping habits (not that I judge, but I found it odd and not quite in keeping with her character). 

   3. In relation to Goblin Market
   One of my favorite poems in British literature is Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, so I obviously made the connection long before she included an excerpt from the poem. (Btw, it’s a great poem, you should go read it). I thought it was interesting how she compared the faerie realm to Rossetti’s ‘goblin men’, but I wish she would have done something more in the comparison. I felt it had amazing potential, but then fell flat because of disuse. Seeing as the poem was one of my favorites, I was sad to see the missed opportunity.

   4. Overall development
   This was the one part that truly made me sad. It had all the makings for a decent book if not for the development, or lack thereof. I didn’t feel like Val grew as a character. Dave, Luis, and Lolli stayed exactly the same and didn’t really develop much either. The only interesting character was Ravus, but he wasn’t even fully fleshed out either. After reading and loving, Tithe, I expected the same caliber of plot and character, but I was sorely disappointed. It had too many holes in both the writing —it was choppy in order to show time lapse —and in the plot and character development for me to fully enjoy. It became more of a tedious trudge through than enjoyment.

   Final Thoughts:
   Overall, this was a disappointment in comparison to my odd affection for Tithe (I liked it much more than this one despite my 2.5 star rating), but I can’t say much else other than it was just ‘eh’. I didn’t care much about the characters. I didn’t/wouldn’t cry if one or all of them died (which is a big sign that differentiates good and bad books for me). I didn’t really care much for the climax of the plot either, it was too quickly finished. Not that I would have drawn it out, but put more flesh on those bones for Christ’s sake.

I gave this book 2 stars on my Goodreads

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