This is my ritual when I finish a book:
- Head to Goodreads
- Enter book as completed on my shelf because I feel accomplished af
- Retrieve high calorie dessert
- Consume contents while reading comments section like an episode of Love and Hip Hop(you’re judging…don’t be judge-y)
I completed this ritual after reading Tithe by Holly Black, a YA fantasy recommended to me by the wonder-mous Shveta Thakrar.
She’s my Writing in the Margins mentor and as I’m in the middle of editing my project, she thought that the book could help me with pacing. She’s also a Tithe fangirl, and I appreciate that.
Tithe is about 16 year-old Kaye, the daughter of a musician whose career never took off. When Kaye’s mom is attacked at a gig, her band breaks up and the mother-daughter duo moves back home to New Jersey. While they try to figure their next moves out, Kaye hopes to rekindle the friendships she left behind, particularly those with the three fairies she’s seen since childhood. Fae-related shenanigans ensue.
I enjoyed this book. I didn’t love it enough to read the next books in the series, but I didn’t hate it at all.
After going through the comments section, I realized my light emotional investment was in the minority. Most people either loved this book (see: Shveta) or hated this book (see: tomato-throwers).
As a writer, it takes a lot for me to really hate a book. I know how tough it is to come up with something worthy of publication. I know the editing process is the devil. I know how brave you MUST to be to put your thoughts out there. Unless the author kicks my dog, I doubt I could really HATE their book.
From what I gathered, those upset about Tithe wanted it to be an afterschool special. As the book is YA and about fairies, those people may have imagined Gossip Girl with sparkly, flying things that change the protagonist’s dress from pink to blue.
Tithe ain’t that.
Tithe is gritty. The title doesn’t refer to adding a few dollars to the collection plate, but the blood sacrifice that happens in the Unseelie Court every seven years. I’m sure you guessed that Kaye is the lucky winner of that honor.
Gritty is also not for everyone, but I loved it.
Holly Black is wonderful at descriptions, so precise that it made me uncomfortable at times. She describes the filthy places Kaye calls home with unflinching detail, etching the smell of cigarette butts, the taste of stale liquor, the ick-factor of her employment at a dirty gas station in your brain. And let’s not mention when (SPOILER) Kaye realizes she’s part of the fae world (see: changeling) and finds green flesh beneath her human skin.
Fae mythology is also fascinating. I also didn’t (and still don’t) know too much about it, but Holly Black wove it in well, especially against the contemporary backdrop. It was digestible and interesting.
But… it took a second for me to get into Tithe. I was nearing the halfway mark before my skimming became avid chapter consumption. I couldn’t tell where the story was going at first, who these people were, and why I should give them my precious feels.
I wanted the inciting incident in the bar/club/gig/whatever to hook me, but it didn’t. I wanted to get interested when Kaye made a broken carnival horse move, but didn’t.
Side note: I was actually concerned by her interaction with her best friend’s boyfriend-ish companion, Kenny, who made a move on her I thought was… line crossing… and would probably be traumatic for the character. Contrarily, Kaye gets over it faster than I thought would happen in real life, which reminded me of a sexual assault issue that popped up in Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Any who, what grabbed my interest? Roiben. Yeah I know… the meet-cute features mythical bae in a dire situation where the protagonist comes to the rescue. Tropety, trope, trope, trope but this and a balcony scene get me every time.
Roiben is a typical book boyfriend: gorgeous, tortured, muscular, snarky, likes the protagonist for utterly no reason, and easily chases away other suitors.
But, I love him. And that’s all. *Kanye shrug*
Who did I also surprisingly love? Lutie-Loo, one of Kaye’s fairy companions. She went for the whole ride with Kaye and I chuckled at her little turns of phrase.
Corny’s character was also a great addition to the story. Kaye needed a good friend, and he was it. Nephamael (whose name reminds me of The Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices angels) and the Seelie queen were defeated too easily. It reminded me of Breaking Dawn where the vampires lined up to fight only to change their minds and pretty much go to Panera. I love a good villain, and a good villain is not easy to get rid of.
I also wanted to know more about the conflict between the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court, and Kaye’s role in that. Maybe it’s in the other books.
Lastly, Kaye is described as half-Japanese. I would have liked to know more about her background. In the age of #weneeddiversebooks, it definitely deserved more screen time.
Breaking the book into basketball game quarters, I would say I enjoyed the end of the 2nd quarter and the entire third. Holly Black is great friends with Cassandra Clare, and those who appreciate Holly’s writing are the kind of people who like Cassandra’s with rougher edges.