Holly Black,
(Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Valerie Russell is a fairly average 17-year-old girl. Perhaps a bit hostile to the other kids in her school, she still spends much of her time sharing gossip with her best pal, Ruth, and obsessing over her boyfriend, Tom. But when Val catches Tom and her too-perfect Mom in a passionate clinch, Val does what anyone in her situation might do -- she goes to a hockey game in the city, but not before shaving her head. And she doesn't go home.

Val's adventures in Manhattan might mirror those of any number of teenage runaways ... until she meets Lollipop and Sketchy Dave, a pair of subway urchins with a direct link to the faerie underworld. Soon, Val is running errands for a none-to-friendly troll named Ravus.

And readers make a welcome return to Holly Black's world of contemporary Faerie. While perhaps best known for her children's series, The Spiderwick Chronicles, co-created with Tony DiTerlizzi, Black's first hurrah was the young-adult urban faerie tale Tithe. While not a direct sequel to that novel, Valiant is set in the same sort of world -- a world parallel to those created by Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Terri Windling and others.

Black has a gift for giving her young characters a realistic voice, so the dialogue -- even when faced with trolls, fairy queens and dead mermaids -- rings true. And, while it's hard to predict how youngsters would really react in these circumstances, Black's cast of characters acts in what I expect would be a realistic manner; i.e., they make dumb mistakes, respond badly to tense situations and otherwise come across as normal, everyday kids. They can't help dabbling in the faerie equivalent of LSD, and they don't care very much who they hurt when they're high on the feeling. (The fact that Never imbues the user with temporary magic makes it doubly dangerous to youngsters with undefined moral boundaries.)

Of course, they are also likely suspects when faeries start dying....

Valiant is an intense, absorbing story about a young girl's first encounter with the other side. New York City is teeming with exiled faeries, which will hopefully provide Black with plenty of storylines to bring us back again and again.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 26 March 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.