Review: ‘The Poison Eaters’ by Holly Black

THE POISON EATERS AND OTHER STORIES by Holly Black

I found myself intrigued and drawn into Holly’s Black’s collection of fairy-tale inspired short stories. I loved the way in which she way in which she played with the traditional concepts of fairy stories, and made them dark and disturbing. For example, I loved the sinister undertones of ‘A Coat of Stars,’ with its  poignant themes of grief, loss and homosexuality, woven within the tale of a young man who creates a beautiful coat to give to the Fairy Queen, in exchange for his mortal male lover. The take on Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’, in ‘The Night Market’ was also clever- even if I didn’t quite get the outcome at the end. (But then again that’s probably my fault!) Once more, this is definitely not for younger readers- the explicit drug and sexual references in ‘Going Ironside’ –about drugged-up faeries looking for love and another high- makes that clear. But, unlike Tithe, it avoided slipping down into grimness or despair- instead it soared into more imaginative realms, with its depiction of girls who drank poison, shapeshifting wolves, a prom-turned-bacchanalia  and exotic goblin fruit.

The weaker stories I felt were ‘The Poison Eaters’, as I wasn’t sure where the plot was going or why the main characters were force-fed poison, and  ‘In Vodka Veritas’ (the ‘kiss cure’ to end the prom-bacchanalia felt a bit eww- and why turn a prom into a bacchanalia anyway? Where was the reasoning and the reckoning for those behind it?) Also, I felt that ‘The Land of Heart’s Desire’ was, dare I say it, a little boring, reintroducing the same characters that I had been so irritated by in Tithe (No! No! No! Not more Rath Roiben-thingy!) although I did LOVE the idea of a New York café frequented by real live faerie folk.  All in all, Holly Black’s darkly sensuous language had been gripped from the very beginning.  A little bewildering at points, but once again, recommended!

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 stars.

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