I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
Holly Black writes really good Faerie tales! Right now, for me, she can do no wrong. When I read the blurb for Valiant I wondered if perhaps I had found one that wouldn’t appeal to me quite so strongly—but I might have known that I would end up enjoying it anyway.
I enjoy Black’s conception of what the Faerie world would be like—I like the darkness, the slipperiness, the duplicity. Once again, we have a very young woman thrown into this world to sink or swim. Our heroine, Val by name, is the subject of the title, as her friends start calling her “Valiant.” This reminded me strongly of the Prince Valiant comic strip that we used to get in a weekly paper. The story was set in Arthurian Britain and the Prince of the title was learning how to be a proper knight and joining the Round Table. I think I clipped the weekly comics from the paper and made a scrapbook of the tale. I have no idea whether Black is at all familiar with the comic strip, but I found strong Arthurian influence in this novel, regardless. It was just a young woman, not a young man, who was earning the title “Valiant.”
If I had one disappointment (and it was only very slight), it was that things wrapped up a little too neatly and happily at the end. I prefer messy, uncertain endings, but that’s just my personal taste. Valiant was a very fast, fun reading experience.