Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: "The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin" by Holly Black

Title: The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin
Author: Holly Black
Illustrator: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Graphix, 2008
Where I got it: The library.

Rue starts right off the bat by telling us she doesn't worry about anything. She doesn't worry about her mother who has been missing for 3 weeks, she doesn't worry about her dad who has gone into a stupor since her mother disappeared, and she doesn't worry that she might be going crazy. That's why she's seeing all of these weird things and impossible beings, right?

But when her dad is accused of not one, but two murders, and a previously unknown grandfather shows up, she knows she has to dig a bit to find some answers. What she finds is much more than she bargained for.

Holly Black has created a spellbinding world in which faeries and folklore exist among the mortals in our worlds. The two previously lived together fairly peacefully, if not on the best of terms, but things are starting to crumble a bit. Rue finds herself in between the two worlds, through no desire of her own, and discovers she is to play one of the biggest roles in some sort of upcoming confrontation, though she's not sure of specifics, and we're not given many answers in this first installment of the Good Neighbors trilogy.

Black certainly leaves her readers with a lot of questions, which I expect to have answered in Kin's sequels. The story is promising, if not terribly original, and Black promises at least an intriguing plot with some interesting characters.

Speaking of characters, I found it hard to connect with any of them. We are treated with Rue's first-person narrative, but I wasn't particularly fond of her and didn't quite feel enough sympathy to care about where she was going or what she was trying to figure out. I was invested merely in the story, and not the players (unless you count finding out about mysterious characters, like the thus-far-impenetrable Tam). Her friends seem loyal, except for her boyfriend, and her dad a decent enough guy, but I found there was little character development or depth to any of them.

As for the illustrations, Naifeh was born to draw faeries and magical creatures. Humans not so much. I found myself confused as to how people came to the extreme emotional duress the illustrations implied—they occasionally seemed far too dramatic. The rest of the time, they looked warped and unpleasant, like they didn't quite fit their skin, and their features were inconsistent. The only way to tell who was who was often defining characteristics like hair and clothing.

I will continue reading the series, if just to find out what happens and learn more about the different beings in this world. I sincerely hope there will be a greater need for faery illustrations and less for humans. It's an interesting premise, and I'm hoping it will live up to its potential.

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