There was an age, when I devoured all the Borderland books and also Go Ask Alice
, when I think I would have been intrigued and slightly titillated by this. That age was approximately eleven.
As an adult, it didn't really work for me. The problem started very early on, when something terrible happens to the protagonist to drive her out of her home and fill her with angst, in preparation for her adventure into the underbelly of fairyland.
That something was walking in on her mother having sex with her boyfriend. Was I shocked in this scene, reader? Was I horrified?
No, I have to admit my reaction was to laugh. Because for me this is such
a scenario out of comedy--or really bad porn, but I repeat myself--that I just can't take it seriously as a Source of All-Consuming Tragedy.
And so every time Val found herself rethinking the moment, when I suppose I was supposed to be filled with pathos for her, I found myself laughing again. I simply could not take it seriously. And when that incident drove the emotional core of the book--well, that's a problem.
Beyond that, there's the fact that I felt no chemistry between the romantic leads. I knew the romance was coming--modern fairy tale, girl meets fairy, girl falls in love with fairy, I know this drill--but I kept waiting for the right fairy to show up, because there was so little build-up between the protagonist and the actual love interest that I couldn't quite believe the book was going there. And then it did, and I was left profoundly underwhelmed.
I did appreciate the girl-saves-boy aspect of the book's conclusion, and the way Ruth turned up to show that women can be loyal and true to each other (kinda important, since the book's other female characters, aside from the protagonist, were the unreliable kitten-murdering Lolli, the villain Mabry, the protagonist's mom [already discussed], and the protagonist's hated step-mom). And Val had some interesting aspects as a character. I just wish she'd been given a better story to shine in.
I am very, very glad I read the much better White Cat
before this, because I'm not sure I would have gone on if this had been my first encounter with Black. Going in this order, it was a useful reminder that writers can grow and improve from their early works.