Synopses & Reviews
Welcome to the realm of very scary faeries!
Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms — a struggle that could very well mean her death.
"Tripping the dark fantastic with newcomer Black means pixie dust may very well include blood spatter, sharp thorns and bits of broken glass. At the center of this edgy novel is Kaye Fierch, a 16-year-old 'Asian blonde' who spends most of her time taking care of a would-be rock star mom. When her mom's latest boyfriend turns homicidal, they return to Gram's house at the New Jersey shore, where Kaye hooks up with childhood friend Janet and her gay brother, Corny Stone. Stark images ripple through the third-person narrative, offering clues to Kaye's internal state (e.g., 'She loved the serene brutality of the ocean'). A covert sexual overture from Janet's boyfriend precedes Kaye's nighttime encounter at the edge of the woods, where she meets and rescues Roiben, a mysterious Black Knight with silver hair. Throughout, the author subtly connects Kaye's awakening sexual feelings in the real world and Roiben's sudden appearances. Kaye soon discovers that she is a changeling and that her one-time 'imaginary' faerie playmates want her to pretend to be a human, so they can use her as the Tithe ('the sacrifice of a beautiful and talented mortal') to earn their freedom for seven years. The author's Bosch-like descriptions of the Unseelie Court, with its Rackham-on-acid denizens, and the exquisite faeries haunt as well as charm. When fate intervenes, sudden tragedy teaches Kaye about the high cost of straddling the faerie and human worlds (and sets the stage for a possible sequel). A gripping read. Ages 12-up. " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] stunning debut....Black has an eye for the telling detail that brings the most minor character to life. A labyrinthine plot with Goth sensibility makes this a luscious treat for fans of urban fantasy and romantic horror." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Tithe is beautifully written. Black has a rare gift for descriptive language and a deliciously creative imagination..." Green Man Review
"The plot moves quickly, and the secondary characters are appealing, if not always entirely believable. Occasional awkward changes in point of view won't discourage readers who enjoy dark, edgy fantasy." School Library Journal
"Dark, edgy, beautifully written, and compulsively readable, this is sure to be a word-of-mouth hit with teens, even a few usually unmoved by magic and monsters." Gillian Engberg, Booklist
"An unusually powerful YA contemporary fantasy, and an outstanding first novel." Locus
"Not only are the descriptions of our world and the world of Faery crisp, delicious, and detailed, but the characters are intriguing and complex, also. I like that these are feral, amoral faeries and not the tame, innocent Victorian version, and that the teenagers aren't tame, either." Annette Curtis Klause,
author of Blood and Chocolate and Silver Kiss
Sixteen-year-old Kaye, who has been visited by faeries since childhood, discovers that she herself is a magical faerie creature with a special destiny.
About the Author
Holly Black is the bestselling author of the Spiderwick series. Her Modern Faerie Tales series is comprised of Tithe, which was an ALA Top Ten Book for Teens and received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews; Valiant, which was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Locus Magazine Recommended Read, and a recipient of the Andre Norton Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; and Ironside, the sequel to Tithe, was a New York Times bestseller. White Cat, the first book in the Curse Workers trilogy, was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book, and ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and BCCB. Red Glove, the second book in the Curse Workers trilogy, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. The final book in the trilogy, Black Heart, will be available in spring 2012. Holly has also written a collection of short stories, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit Holly at blackholly.com.
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Guide for TITHE, VALIANT, and IRONSIDE
By Holly Black
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Holly Black's first Young Adult novel, the urban fantasy/faerie tale Tithe, focuses on a sixteen-year-old girl named Kaye who is actually a pixie, only at first she doesn't know it. Kaye starts to piece together the strange story of her real identity when she and her mother return to the New Jersey town where she grew up, and Kaye comes in contact with the faeries she used to play with as a child and a wounded knight, Roiben, who will change her life forever. Black's second book, Valiant, picks up where Tithe leaves off, but follows a different girl -- a human named Val -- who catches her boyfriend and her mother in a compromising position and runs away from home. In New York City, Val hooks up with a strange group of homeless teens and joins them in living in an abandoned subway station. It's not long before Val learns that these teens are not like anyone she's ever met -- they work as couriers for a troll and come in contact with faeries on a regular basis. Ironside, Black's third book, returns readers to Kaye's story, beginning two months after the ending of Tithe. Roiben is about to take the throne of the Unseelie Court and there will undoubtedly be a war, but then Kaye makes a foolish declaration and is sent on an impossible quest. Luis and Dave from Valiant become an integral part of the story as Kaye is forced to visit Silarial, the Seelie queen, to try to save Roiben and herself.
How does Tithe compare with other fairy tale books you've read in the past? Did you like the modern setting?
If you were Kaye, what gift would you have given to the kelpie if the broken carousel horse had not been available?
What other orders would you have asked Rath Roiben Rye to carry out if you suddenly knew his full name? (Don't forget his skill of turning leaves into money!)
For New Jersey and New York readers: Name all of the real locations that were mentioned in the three books -- for example: Allaire State Park, CafÉ des Artistes, etc.
If you were able to choose, would you want to be a part of the Seelie court, the Unseelie court, the solitary fey, or the human world? Why?
At the end of Tithe, what do you imagine happened to Roiben and Kaye? Before you read the sequel, how did you feel about the ending of Tithe? Would you have ended the book differently?
Were you excited to see cameos by some of the characters from Tithe in Valiant?
Who is your favorite character from Valiant? Why? What qualities does this character possess that make him/her most interesting to you?
If Valiant was made into a movie, what current film or TV stars would you cast as Val, Lolli, Dave, Luis, Ravus and the others?
Put yourself in Lolli's shoes -- tell the story of Valiant from her point of view. What do you think happened to Lolli at the end of the book?
What did you think of the use of the faerie drug "Never" in the story? Did you think that the book showed enough of the downside of using drugs? If Dave had never taken the drug, how do you think his story would change? What about Lolli? Val?
We know that Kaye got her GED during the two months between the end of Tithe and the beginning of Ironside. What else do you think happened during this interim? How did Kaye cope with the loss of Janet, her mom moving away, her relationship with Roiben, etc.?
Ironside obviously takes place in December -- what are the clues that tell you what time of year it is?
If you were cursed like Corny, would you immediately get to the ocean to cure yourself or would you attempt to touch someone or something? Whom or what?
Do you think it was a mistake for Kaye to have the young human brought back to Ellen? Do you think the girl will grow up to be a normal person?
If you were in Kaye's position with no need for college and the ability to create a new life for yourself, what would you do? What do you think of Kaye's coffee shop plans and her idea of dividing her time between it and Roiben?
Which adventurous duo do you think had a more challenging or exciting task: Val and Luis going after Mabry for Ravus's heart or Kaye and Corny traveling to the Seelie Court to strike a deal with Silarial?
Should there be additional books in this series? How would the story continue? Which character besides Kaye or Val would you like to see explored in another book?
Were any of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter familiar to you? Choose a few of your favorites and discuss how they relate to what happened in the story at that point.
RESEARCH AND ACTIVITIES
Create a Tithe board game that follows Kaye's travels between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and the human world. Playing pieces can represent something about each character -- Kaye's purple cat suit, Roiben's long white hair, Corny's beat-up car, etc. Use obstacles like iron, thorns, ogres, and the Unseelie queen. Make minor characters part of the game (Janet, Kenny, Ellen) by detouring major players to save them from the kelpie. Be creative!
Make a clay sculpture, a painting, a drawing, or other piece of art of your favorite character from any of the books. What do you think they would actually look like?
Make an Unseelie feast! Re-create dishes that Kaye sees when she sneaks into the Unseelie court, then invent your own interesting recipes.
Write a spell for creating a glamour, then read it aloud to the group. Describe the new look you have created.
Choose your favorite scene and act it out in front of the group. If several people wish to be involved, choose a scene that features many characters. Make your performance as simple or as elaborate as you choose by adding costumes and props or just reading dialogue aloud from the book.
Assuming that Kaye's grandmother lives in Long Branch, New Jersey, get an atlas and map out the route that Kaye and Corny (and later, Luis) took during the course of their travels in Ironside.
Design your own sword -- either patterned after the glass one Ravus used to teach Val how to fight or one of your own creation. Draw a detailed picture of your design.