Booking it Across the US | New Jersey and Tithe by Holly Black


August 7, 2013 by Heidi

Booking it Across the US

Welcome to New Jersey!  The state that brought us Zach Braff’s Garden State (or I suppose the Garden State that brought us Zach Braff) and diners on every block.  We usually stop there for gas, because it’s cheaper…and that’s about all I have to say about Jersey.

New Jersey Reads

Personal favorite? White Cat by Holly Black.
What’s your favorite New Jersey read?


Tithe by Holly BlackTitle: Tithe [Goodreads]
Author: Holly Black [Website|Twitter|Tumblr]
Standing: First in a trilogy, can be read as a stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Retelling
Published: April 1st, 2004 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (first published in 2002)
Format: Paperback; 331 pages.
Source: Purchased.

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.

Rath Roiben Rye.

Three little words that hold such great power.

Enter the world of Holly Black’s mind: a world where every edge is sharp and every corner is dark; a world that tastes like ashes, but smells subtly sweet.  These are the faeries I’ve come to adore, and hope I’ll never ever meet.  Kaye finds herself wrapped up in the machinations of the solitary and court fae, uncertain if she can trust her instincts or her friends.

As I have come to expect from devouring Black’s Curse Workers series, her world building is phenomenal.  In such a short book (though believe me, I’d have been happy were it 100 pages longer), Holly Black manages to wrap you in a shroud of the deepest night, leading you to revelries unmatched and unknown.  She parallels the cruelties and kindness of fae and humankind, and gives us characters all the more real for their shattered pieces.  Kaye is cruel for a human; Roiben is kind for a faerie.

Holly Black’s prose–and characters–are gritty and hard.  Kaye is the daughter of an alcoholic who just accepts that that’s the way life is and chooses not to dwell.  She’s a high school drop out too wrapped up in her own world to be concerned about her future in the real one.  She’s always been considered a little crazy for her “imaginary” faerie friends, and she isn’t known for making the best decisions.  In short, though she is the type of girl I never would have hung out with in high school, she’s precisely the type I can’t stop reading about.  The troubled girls, the ones with a cruel side–willing to taunt and tease, but still craving real affection like the dying crave water.  The trouble in Tithe, is that Kaye can never be sure if the affection she’s given is real, enchantment, or part of a ploy.

Tithe is a Tam Lin retelling, and though I am familiar with the tale and have seen aspects of it used in other books (An Artificial Light, The Seven Tales of Trinket), it is the first strait retelling I’ve read.  It does veer quite a bit from the original tale, but not so much that one wouldn’t recognize it for what it is.  I love the separation of love and mortal by the addition of Kaye’s friend, Corny, and Black’s flushing out of Kaye’s human life made the tale that much more gripping and tragic.  And Roiben.  A man that had been broken, and can’t quite be put back together again, but may be all the more beautiful for his flaws.

While I greatly enjoyed Tithe, I did long for more pages to bolster the emotional development between Roiben and Kaye.  More room to show the depth of friendship forged in tragedy, and the inability to return to normal once you have forgotten what that means.  Basically, I feel it could have used some more meat on its bones, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t shadows of those emotions underneath the surface, easily read by those who care to look.  I don’t mind perspective shifts in books, but I dislike when they feel vastly imbalanced as they did here, however, Holly Black’s writing is both grimy and atmospheric, and I will quite happily push her on any who will listen.  I’ll also be returning to Jersey with Valiant and Ironside quite soon.


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  1. Despite living in NJ, I didn’t even realize this book – or Curseworkers – was set in my state. Awkward. I read this one a looooong time ago, so long that I remember thinking the kissing scenes in this were utterly scandalous. Yup, I was young and innocent and naive and Holly Black opened my eyes to an entire section of the YA genre I didn’t know existed. Actually, this might have just been my first YA entirely, so I remember it with fondness. In retrospect, this series has nothing on the Curseworkers, which is kind of brilliant and perfect. Lovely review, though, Heidi, and I’m interested to see what you think of the next installments. Also, Sloppy Firsts is my favorite NJ read, though I must be honest, there are no Marcus Fluties here after all. *sigh* 😉

  2. Hey now – New Jersey is awesome for far more than its gas and the film Garden State! It has no sales tax on clothes and shoes. It has awesome beaches. It has an awesome train system. It is within close proximity of quite a few major metropolitan areas. It does have lots of good food (I miss NJ pizza – which isn’t that much different from NY pizza in my current Midwestern mind. (Yeah, I was born and raised in NJ, in case you couldn’t tell :))

    And I’m glad you got to read Tithe! This is so beautifully written, Heidi! Your review itself is like a work of art. :) I do understand what you’re saying about the relationship between Roiben and Kaye. I don’t know much about the other books within this series, but I’m hoping that maybe this gets expanded upon somewhat? I really need to read the rest of the trilogy, as well as her other works.

  3. Yes, yes, I know how you feel about Jersey lol. But I’m happy that this is the book you picked since we both picked this one up at The Strand and that means I get to read it too! I love the idea of two tragic characters coming to mean something more to each other as they go on. That sounds brilliant!

  4. mary anne says:

    OK, so Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is completely unrealistic – but some of the characters and setting remind me so much of relatives we visitied and neighborhoods I knew when I was a little girl in New Jersey (a long time ago.)

  5. Alyssa says:

    LOL about that being all you have to say about Jersey, because YES.

    I have owned Tithe for YEARS and have yet to pick it up, actually I haven’t yet read anything by Holly Black…I actually have no excuses for not reading this as it is a retelling of Tam Lin and helloooo I LOVE that ballad.

    Are the rest of the books companions or do they continue on this series? Now I am all excited..

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.