||A Review of: Tithe
by Ian Daffern
Tithe, is a brilliant, sometimes scary young-adult novel, which
lets loose faeries on America's suburbs. The story is Anne Rice
meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bringing together the lush
gothic-romance of the former with the feisty female protagonists
of the latter. However Black's vision is a lot dirtier than Rice's-call
it fantasy-grunge as it's set in the mid-nineties era of ripped
stockings and bad-hair dyes. Sixteen-year-old Kaye, band-brat
daughter to a perennial Courtney Love-esque rocker-mom, has been
used to a life of freedom on the road. However, after her Mom is
suddenly attacked by one of her own band-mates, Kaye is forced with
her back to the strict household of her grandmother's home in New
This is where the real story begins. As Kaye adjusts to the boredom
and listlessness of the teen-crowd around her, she also begins to
recall vivid memories of play with imaginary friends. She soon
learns that these mates were real, and that they had been planning
a special destiny for her. Right in her backyard is the gateway to
the world of fairies, including a full range of sprites, kelpies
and other nasty creatures. Kaye also meets her own tall dark stranger,
a wounded fairie knight named Roiben who she helps rescue from an
attack in the woods. Roiben continues to run into her life, as an
enigma, a romance, and possibly, a deadly enemy.
In Black's world, there are two opposing faerie kingdoms, those of
the Unseelie and the Seelie, both of which frequent the hills of
New Jersey. There is also a third group, free creatures that have
no allegiance, but are sworn into fealty by the malevolent Unseelie
court by means of a human sacrifice called the Tithe. Kaye becomes
caught up in a power struggle between the courts, and even her old
childhood friends, who are free faerie-spirits. Guess who has her
in mind for the Tithe? If that wasn't enough, her knight in black
armour also works for the court that plans to sacrifice her. But
there is a twist: Kaye learns she isn't quite mortal (and thus not
fit for the Tithe) when a pair of shimmering pixie wings pop out
of her back.
The mortal world doesn't turn out to be so great either, with her
mom threatening to drag her off to New York City and her friends
wondering why she's so aloof. When the Faerie world threatens the
real, Kaye has to make a decision and choose her destiny.
Thankfully, neither world is squeaky clean. What stands out is
Black's attention to detail: the rust on the hinges, the dirt that
stains Kaye's dresses after she rambles through the woods. Black
skillfully juxtaposes Kaye's life of messy, ripped clothes and
brambles with the excesses and depravity she encounters in the
faerie court, making both appear more believable in the process.
However, the detail sometimes runs to excess. Too much attention
is paid to the clothing of the characters, the particulars of what
kind of fabric a top is made of or a t-shirt's ironed on insignia.
These signifiers may be of crucial importance to teen tribes, but
in reading the book, at times all this information resembled a
Faerie-Barbie fashion show.
Overall, Tithe is an enchanting tale. The adventure moves along at
a good pace; the language is rich but not overwrought; and its
filled with well-drawn characters, both magical and mortal, longing
to escape their world.