It’s the first post of 2019 and the last one for Tithe.
In the penultimate chapter, we’re almost at the real climax of the book, with Kaye and Roiben leaving the Seelie Court to rescue Corny. I wouldn’t normally talk about the transition scene here, except for Kaye and Roiben’s conversation as they’re leaving the Seelie Court.
‘I’m here because you are kind and lovely and terribly, terribly brave,’ he said, his voice pitched low. ‘And because I want to be.’
She looked up at him through her lashes. He smiled and rested his chin on top of her head, sliding his hand over her back.
‘You want to be?’
He laughed. ‘Verily, I do. Do you doubt it?’
‘Oh,’ she said, mind unable to catch up with the stunning joy that she felt. Joy, that was, for the moment, enough to push the other sorrows aside. Because it was true, somehow, that he was here with her, and not with the Seelie Queen.
This is the first scene in the book that makes me think that their budding relationship is based on something more than lust, and the allure of the mysterious stranger you met on the side of the road.
When Roiben and Kaye get to the Unseelie Court, they learn that Spike is dead, and Nephamael has made himself king. I don’t think anyone feels bad about Spike getting killed. He never made himself likeable in the first place, and he wasn’t an important enough character to pay attention to.
They don’t really have much of a plan to get Corny back from Nephamael, but pretty soon Roiben’s opinion is moot. Nephamael learned Roiben’s name and uses it to take control of him. Kaye escapes, but Roiben remains in Nephamael’s command.
There’s a lot of situations in Tithe that are pretty intense. Maybe it’s because I’m older or because I’ve read the book a few times before, but very little in it scares me anymore. Except when Nephamael takes control of Roiben.
I’m not going to be ritually sacrificed by faeries, I think I’m smart enough now to avoid any teenage-like boyfriend shenanigans, and even driving isn’t that hard anymore. But Nephamael’s total control over Roiben is way more frightening than I remember it being. He’s ordered to humiliate himself and to “cut the pixie until she dies” when Kaye gets recaptured. The disturbing thing about this is that Roiben is totally conscious and aware of himself doing these things. He doesn’t want to do them, but has no choice. His body totally betrays his mind. The idea of not being in charge of my actions is scary, but that someone else could have absolute control over me is even worse. At some point, even I have to wonder, how much of me is really “in control”? How much of my life is actually dictated by me, and not, say, my boss, or my bank account?
But that line of thinking will probably lead me to some introspection and depression, and that’s not what we’re here for. What we are here for is to see Roiben and Corny get saved, right?
In discussing the last chapter, I talked about my disappointment in the shift from urban fantasy to just straight fantasy. I wanted to see Kaye’s world clash more with the fae world. I got a little bit more of that here. Kaye doesn’t know how to think like a pixie, and this works to her advantage. She poisons Nephamael with tiny iron nails from her boots, something she could have only gotten from the mortal realm. Nephamael dies, Corny and Roiben are free, and everyone’s a little closer to earning their happy endings.
I don’t think that this climax was bigger or more exciting than “escape from ritual sacrifice”, but I love that Kaye used her wits and resources to win the day. And, of course, that a girl saves the boys.
I’m combining my review for Chapter 15 as well, because I don’t think there’s enough in the final chapter to warrant a full post of its own. It’s basically a parlor scene wherein Kaye reveals the the Seelie Queen planned all this out, which should be intriguing, but is more confusing than anything. Roiben declares himself king of the Unseelie Court, and Kaye and Corny return to the mortal world.
The ending is bittersweet. Kaye and Corny are safe, but Janet is dead. Roiben and Kaye start a relationship, but it’s made clear throughout the book that kingship will not necessarily be kind to Roiben.
I like Tithe, but I don’t think it’s Holly Black’s best work. Reading it through again, it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should. The charmed kissing scene was also pretty questionable for me. But it’s still and enjoyable book, and easy to get sucked into. I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s other books, including Ironside and The White Cat, and I think both are more polished than Tithe.
Tithe meant a lot to me as an adolescent. It introduced me to YA fiction and urban fantasy. I took a lot of inspiration from Holly Black and her stories. Even her webpage had a lot of resources and inspiration for a teenage writer like me at the time. She helped me learn about the publishing industry and the writing process. But most important, she made me feel like I could be a writer, and that someone wanted to hear what I had to say.
That’s a wrap for Tithe! Next week I’ll be back with a final – yes, final – manga review, and then I’ll be moving on to a new project for the rest of the year. Thanks for sticking with me this far, may your new year be full of good books and free of human sacrifice.