Valiant by Holly Black

Valiant by Holly BlackA review by Nalini Haynes

Before the Knights of Badassdom movie, Holly Black wrote:

Hands raised in mock surrender, Ruth laughed. “Just a joke, Princess Badass of Badassia.”

Valerie Russell, Princess Badass or Val to her friends, is having a rough day. Even her boyfriend doesn’t show up for their date at the hockey match. Val heads out anyway (rock the independent chick!) but turns back because she’s worried about missing Tom at the stadium and she has the tickets. Arriving home, she finds her mother screwing Tom, her boyfriend who is still in high school.

Distressed, Val heads to New York for the hockey game but wanders the streets instead. She hooks up with Dave and Lolli who take her home to an abandoned subway station, walking the tracks to get to and from their hideout.

Dave’s older brother Luis doesn’t want Val around. Lolli is unpredictable, especially when she thinks Val might be interested in the object of her affections, Luis.

While showing Val the ropes, Dave admits to being some kind of drug-runner. He delivers bottles of medicine for fae forced to live in the iron and pollution of the city, but fae medicine is a drug for humans. A drug that gives humans limited magical powers.

Although Valiant is the second book in the trilogy, it’s possible to read Valiant without reading the first book, Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie. However, the novels intersect, featuring characters whose backstories were developed in the first novel. Skipping book 1 is possible but reading book 1 adds depth to book 2.

With drugs, sex, parental conflict and homelessness, Valiant is a potent cocktail for teens, exploring real life while being an escapist drug. (Because reading is a drug, right?) Val’s choices are emphasised and consequences explored. I suspect Val is in line for more trouble in book 3.

I enjoyed Valiant but The Darkest Part of the Forest is still my favorite Holly Black novel.

  • Rating:  full starfull starfull starfull starEmpty star 4 out of 5 stars
  • ISBN: 9780689868221
  • Format: hardcover, 320 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
  • Age: Grades 8 and up