I really expected that the magic of re-reading Tithe for the first time in years would be gone as soon as Kaye stumbled across her love interest, Roiben. I opened the book, armed with my incredible ability to nit-pick everything, and came away more or less satisfied with the second chapter.
No, let’s be honest, I got totally sucked in again.
It didn’t really start that way, though. Kaye flees the carousel and her own embarrassment, and starts on her way home. She’s more upset about how she made the broken carousel horse stand up on its own than about Kenny groping her, which makes sense, I guess, but in her situation, that’s not the thing I’d be hyper-focusing on. When she does think about Kenny, she’s more worried about what Janet will think, and what Kenny will tell people.
But the opening of the chapter is rendered less frustrating to me thanks to the lovely descriptions of Kaye’s walk home. I can vividly picture the wet woods at night, walking through the rain in the dark, cold and scared. I’m really envious of Holly Black’s descriptive abilities. She can make the scene come to life and paint a picture with her words, without making it drag on.
As Kaye makes her way home, she comes across a beautiful wounded man. She realizes that he is a faerie, but not like the faeries that were her childhood friends. The ones she had seen as a child were small and mischievous and playful, what most people would think of when they hear the word “faery”. Roiben, who Kaye finds here, is tall and handsome, more a warrior elf than a fun-loving sprite. The modern idea of fae is more like what we see in Disney movies: beautiful winged women granting wishes and turning you into a princess or a real boy. Tinkerbell may actually be closer to a traditional fae, with her jealousy nearly leading to the death of Wendy.
But for the most part, that Disney idea was what I grew up with. Charming creatures that would help you with your housework and friendly elves that made toys and shoes. A character like Roiben, in my book, was an entirely different species, like an elf from Lord of the Rings. Tithe was my first real introduction to the more traditional look at faeries, seeing their dark and dangerous side that went hand-in-hand with their beauty.
Roiben, by the way, was exactly what my fourteen-year-old self was looking for. Tall, handsome, dark and mysterious. He was in pain, he was broken, and I found that irresistible. Five years later, I found my own beautiful angsty man and knew that I could fix him, that I could be the light to his darkness.
If there are any teenage girls out there reading this now: I do not recommend attempting this. You cannot fix him, you will only get hurt in the process. Love your tall, dark, and brooding man in fiction, and leave him there.
Before I finish up this post, there is just one thing I need to point out.
She let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding.
It’s not a bad line, and I can’t think of a better way to describe that sudden un-tightening of your chest after your see relief from a tense situation. But this line is used so much in fiction that it’s almost become another character. I know I’m guilty of using it way too much.
To be totally honest, this is probably something I would have never noticed, if not for one of my favorite tweets ever.
You aren’t a writer until your protagonist doesn’t let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and that’s a fact.
— Nimika (@the_wordlover) April 12, 2018
Someday I want to write a YA novel where the main character lets out a breath she knew damn well that she was holding.
P.S.: I’m on Twitter, like all the cool kids: https://twitter.com/nortonwriter14