Valiant (Modern Tale of Faerie Series #2)

Valiant (Modern Tale of Faerie Series #2)

by Holly Black

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Overview

When seventeen-year-old Valerie Russell runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system.
But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-colored powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there's Luis's brother, timid and sensitive Dave, who makes the mistake of letting Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet.
When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been dealing, Val finds herself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honorable. And as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between her affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.
Bestselling author Holly Black follows her breakout debut, Tithe, with a rich, harrowing, and compulsively readable parable of betrayal, abuse, friendship, and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416934516
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 05/01/2006
Series: Modern Tale of Faerie Series , #2
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 62,166
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), the Modern Faerie Tales series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Darkest Part of the Forest,  the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), and the Folk of the Air series. She has been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of both an Andre Norton Award and a Newbery Honor. She lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door. Visit her at BlackHolly.com.

Read an Excerpt


Prologue

For I shall learn from flower and leaf

That color every drop they hold,

To change the lifeless wine of grief

To living gold.

--SARA TEASDALE, "ALCHEMY"

The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning. Most of her leaves had already fallen, but those remaining blackened and shriveled along her back. She pulled her roots up from the deep soil, long hairy tendrils that flinched in the chill late autumn air.

An iron fence had surrounded her trunk for years, the stink of the metal as familiar as any small ache. The iron scorched her as she dragged her roots over it. She tumbled onto the concrete sidewalk, her slow tree thoughts filling with pain.

A human walking two little dogs stumbled against the brick wall of a building. A taxi screeched to a halt and blared its horn.

Long branches tipped over a bottle as the tree woman scrambled to pull away from the metal. She stared at the dark glass as it rolled into the street, watching the dregs of bitter poison drip out of the neck, seeing the familiar scrawl on the little strip of paper secured with wax. The contents of that bottle should have been a tonic, not the instrument of her death. She tried to lift herself up again.

One of the dogs started barking.

The tree woman felt the poison working inside of her, choking her breath and befuddling her. She had been crawling somewhere, but she could no longer remember where. Dark green patches, like bruises, bloomed along her trunk.

"Ravus," the tree woman whispered, the bark of her lips cracking. "Ravus."

Copyright (c) 2005 by Holly Black

Chapter 1

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

--LEWIS CARROLL, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Valerie Russell felt something cold touch the small of her back and spun around, striking without thinking. Her slap connected with flesh. A can of soda hit the concrete floor of the locker room and rolled, sticky brown liquid fizzing as it pooled. Other girls looked up from changing into sweats and started to giggle.

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

"Sorry," Val forced herself to say, but the sudden surprise of anger hadn't entirely dissipated and she felt like an idiot. "What are you doing down here? I thought being near sweat gave you hives."

Ruth sat down on a green bench, looking exotic in a vintage smoking jacket and long velvet skirt. Ruth's brows were thin pencil lines, her eyes outlined with black kohl and red shadow that made her look like a Kabuki dancer. Her hair was glossy black, paler at the roots and threaded with purple braids. She took a deep drag on her clove cigarette and blew smoke in the direction of one of Val's teammates. "Only my own sweat."

Val rolled her own eyes, but she smiled. She had to admit it was a fantastic response. Val and Ruth had been friends forever, for so long that Val was used to being the overshadowed one, the "normal" one, the one who set up the witty one-liners, not the one who delivered them. She liked that role; it made her feel safe. Robin to Ruth's Batman. Chewbacca to her Han Solo.

Val leaned down to kick off her sneakers and saw herself in the small mirror on her locker door, strands of orangy hair peeking out from a green bandanna.

Ruth had been dyeing her own hair since the fifth grade, first in colors you could buy in boxes at the supermarket, then in crazy, beautiful colors like mermaid green and poodle pink, but Val had only dyed her hair once. It had been a store-bought auburn; just darker and richer than her own pale color, but it had gotten her grounded anyway. Back then, her mother punished her every time she did anything to show that she was growing up. Mom didn't want her to get a bra, didn't want her to wear short skirts, and didn't want her dating until high school. Now that she was in high school, all of a sudden, her mother was pushing makeup and dating advice. Val had gotten used to pulling her hair back in bandannas, wearing jeans and T-shirts though, and didn't want to change.

"I've got some statistics for the flour-baby project and I picked out some potential names for him." Ruth unshouldered her giant messenger bag. The front flap was smeared with paint and studded with buttons and stickers--a pink triangle peeling at the edges, a button hand-lettered to say "Still Not King," a smaller one that read "Some things exist whether you believe in them or not," and a dozen more. "I was thinking maybe you could come over tonight and we could work on it."

"I can't," Val said. "Tom and I are going to see a hockey game in the city after practice."

"You're going to make a boy out of him yet," Ruth said, twirling one of her purple braids around her finger.

Val frowned. She couldn't help noticing the edge in Ruth's voice when she talked about Tom. "Do you think he doesn't want to go?" Val asked. "Did he say something?"

Ruth shook her head and took another quick draw on her cigarette. "No. No. Nothing like that."

"I was thinking that we could go to the Village after the game if there's time. Walk around St. Mark's." Only a couple of months earlier, at the town fair, Tom had applied a press-on tattoo to the small of her back by kneeling down and licking the spot wet before pressing it to her skin. Now she could barely get him to have sex.

"The city at night. Romantic."

The way Ruth said it, Val thought she meant the opposite. "What? What's going on with you?"

"Nothing," Ruth said. "I'm just distracted or something." She fanned herself with one hand. "So many nearly naked girls in one place."

Val nodded, half-convinced.

"Did you look at those chat logs like I told you? Find that one where I sent you statistics about all-female households for the project?"

"I didn't get a chance. I'll find it tomorrow, okay?" Val rolled her eyes. "My mother is online twenty-four, seven. She has some new Internet boyfriend."

Ruth made a gagging sound.

"What?" Val said. "I thought you supported online love. Weren't you the one who said it was love of the mind? Truly spiritual without flesh to encumber it?"

"I hope I didn't say that." Ruth pressed the back of her hand to her forehead, letting her body tip backward in mock faint. She caught herself suddenly, jerking upright. "Hey, is that a rubber band around your ponytail? That's going to rip out your hair. Get over here; I think I have a scrunchie and a brush."

Val straddled the bench in front of Ruth and let her work out the band. "Ouch. You're making it worse."

"Aren't you athletic types supposed to be more butch?" Ruth brushed Val's hair out and threaded it through the cloth tie, pulling it tight enough so that Val thought she could feel the tiny hairs on the back of her neck snapping.

Jennifer walked up and leaned on her lacrosse stick. She was a plain, large-boned girl who'd been in Val's school since kindergarten. She always looked unnaturally clean, from her shiny hair to the sparkling white of her kneesocks and her unwrinkled shorts. She was also the captain of their team. "Hey lesbo, take it elsewhere."

"You afraid it's catching?" Ruth asked sweetly.

"Fuck off, Jen," Val said, less witty and a moment too late.

"You're not supposed to smoke here," said Jen, but she didn't look at Ruth. She stared at Val's sweats. Tom had decorated one side of them: drawing a gargoyle with permanent marker up a whole leg. The other side was mostly slogans or just random stuff Val had written with a bunch of different pens. They probably weren't what Jen thought of as regulation practicewear.

"Never mind. I got to go anyway." Ruth put out her cigarette on the bench, burning a crater in the wood. "Later, Val. Later, closet case."

"What is with you?" Jennifer asked softly, as though she really wanted Val to be her friend. "Why do you hang out with her? Can't you see what a freak she is?"

Val looked at the floor, hearing the things that Jen wasn't saying: Are you a lesbian, too? Are you hot for me? We're only going to put up with you for so long on this team unless you shape up.

If life were like a video game, she would have used her power move to whip Jen in the air and knock her against the wall with two strikes of a lacrosse stick. Of course, if life really were like a video game, Val would probably have to do that in a bikini and with giant breasts, each one made of separately animated polygons.

In real real life, Val chewed on her lip and shrugged, but her hands curled into fists. She'd been in two fights already since she joined the team and she couldn't afford to be in a third one.

"What? You need your girlfriend to speak for you?"

Val punched Jen in the face.

Knuckles burning, Valerie dropped her backpack and lacrosse stick onto the already cluttered floor of her bedroom. Rummaging through her clothes, she snatched up underpants and a sports bra that made her even flatter than she already was. Then, grabbing a pair of black pants she thought were probably clean and her green hooded sweatshirt from the laundry pile, she padded out into the hall, cleated shoes scrunching fairy tale books free from their bindings and tracking dirt over an array of scattered video-game jewel cases. She heard the plastic crack under her heels and tried to kick a few to safety.

In the hall bathroom, she stripped off her uniform. After rubbing a washcloth under her arms and reapplying deodorant, she then started pulling on her clothes, stopping only to inspect the raw skin on her hands.

"This was your last shot," the coach had said. She'd waited three quarters of an hour in his office while everyone else practiced, and when he finally came in, she saw what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. "We can't afford to keep you on the team. You are affecting everyone's sense of camaraderie. We have to be a single unit with one goal--winning. You understand, don't you?"

There was a single knock before her door opened. Her mother stood in the doorway, perfectly manicured hand still on the knob. "What did you do to your face?"

Val sucked her cut lip into her mouth, inspected it in the mirror. She'd forgotten about that. "Nothing. It was just an accident at practice."

"You look terrible." Her mother squeezed in, shaking out her recently highlighted blond bob so that they were both reflected in the same mirror. Every time she went to the hairdresser, he seemed to just add more and brighter highlights, so that the original brown seemed to be drowning in a rising tide of yellow.

"Thanks so fucking much." Val snorted, only slightly annoyed. "I'm late. Late. Late. Late. Like the white rabbit."

"Hold on." Val's mom turned and walked out of the room. Val's gaze followed her down the hallway to the striped wallpaper and the family photographs. Her mother as a runner-up beauty queen. Valerie with braces sitting next to her mother on the couch. Grandma and Grandpa in front of their restaurant. Valerie again, this time holding her baby half sister at her dad's house. The smiles on their frozen faces looked cartoonish and their bared teeth were too white.

A few minutes later, Val's mother returned with a zebra-striped makeup bag. "Stay still."

Valerie scowled, looking up from lacing her favorite green Chucks. "I don't have time. Tom is going to be here any minute." She hadn't remembered to put on her own watch, so she pushed up the sleeve of her mother's blouse and looked at hers. He was already later than late.

"Tom knows how to let himself in." Valerie's mother smeared her finger in some thick, tan cream and started tapping it gently under Val's eyes.

"The cut is on my lip," Val said. She didn't like makeup. Whenever she laughed, her eyes teared and the makeup ran as if she'd been crying.

"You could use a little color in your face. People in New York dress up."

"It's just a hockey game, Mom, not the opera."

Her mother gave that sigh, the one that seemed to imply that someday Val would find out just how wrong she was. She brushed Val's face with tinted powder and then with nontinted powder. Then there was more powder dusted on her eyes. Val recalled her junior prom last summer, and hoped her mother wasn't going to try and re-create that goppy, shimmery look. Finally, she actually painted some lipstick over Val's mouth. It made the wound sting.

"Are you done?" Val asked as her mom started on the mascara. A sideways look at her mother's watch showed that the train would leave in about fifteen minutes. "Shit! I have to go. Where the hell is he?"

"You know how Tom can be," her mother said.

"What do you mean?" She didn't know why her mother always had to act as if she knew Val's friends better than Val did.

"He's a boy." Val's mother shook her head. "Irresponsible."

Valerie fished out her cell from her backpack and scrolled to his name. It went right to voice mail. She clicked off. Walking back to her bedroom, she looked out the window, past the kids skateboarding off a plywood ramp in the neighbor's driveway. She didn't see Tom's lumbering Caprice Classic.

She phoned again. Voice mail.

"This is Tom. Bela Lugosi's dead but I'm not. Leave me a message."

"You shouldn't keep calling like that," her mother said, following her into the room. "When he turns his phone back on, he'll see how many calls he missed and who made them."

"I don't care what he sees," Val said, thumbing the buttons. "Anyway, this is the last time."

Val's mother shook her head and, stretching out on her daughter's bed, started to outline her own lips in brown pencil. She knew the shape of her own mouth so well that she didn't bother with a mirror.

"Tom," Valerie said into the phone once his voice mail picked up. "I'm walking over to the train station now. Don't bother picking me up. Meet me on the platform. If I don't see you, I'll take the train and find you at the Garden."

Her mother scowled. "I don't know that it's safe for you to go into the city by yourself."

"If we don't make this train, we're going to be late for the game."

"Well, at least take this lipstick." Val's mother rummaged in the bag and handed it over.

"How is that going to keep me safer?" Val muttered and slung her backpack over her shoulder. Her phone was still clutched in her hand, plastic heating in her grip.

Val's mother smiled. "I have to show a house tonight. Do you have your keys?"

"Sure," Val said. She kissed her mother's cheek, inhaling perfume and hairspray. A burgundy lip print remained. "If Tom comes by, tell him I'm already gone. And tell him he's an asshole."

Her mother smiled, but there was something awkward about her expression. "Wait," she said. "You should wait for him."

"I can't," Val said. "I already told him I was going."

With that, she darted down the stairs, out the front door, and across the small patch of yard. It was a short walk to the station and the cold air felt good. Doing something other than waiting felt good.

The asphalt parking lot of the train station was still wet with yesterday's rain and the overcast sky swollen with the promise of more. As she crossed the lot, the signals started to flash and clang in warning. She made it to the platform just as the train ground to a stop, sending up a billow of hot, stinking air.

Valerie hesitated. What if Tom had forgotten his cell and waited for her at the house? If she left now and he took the next train, they might not find each other. She had both tickets. She might be able to leave his at the ticket booth, but he might not think to check there. And even if all that worked out, Tom would still be all broody. When or if he finally showed up, he wouldn't be in the mood to do anything but fight. She didn't know where they could go, but she'd hoped that they could find someplace to be alone for a little while.

She chewed the skin around her thumb, neatly biting off a hangnail and then pulling so a tiny strip of skin came loose. It was oddly satisfying, despite the tiny bit of blood that welled to the surface, but when she licked it away her skin tasted bitter.

The doors to the train finally shut, ending her indecision. Valerie watched as it rolled out of the station and then started walking slowly home. She was relieved and annoyed to spot Tom's car parked next to her mother's Miata in the driveway. Where had he been? She sped up and yanked open the door.

And froze. The screen slipped from her fingers, crashing closed. Through the mesh, she could see her mother bent forward on the white couch, crisp blue shirt unbuttoned past the top of her bra. Tom knelt on the floor, mohawked head leaning up to kiss her. His chipped black polished fingernails fumbled with the remaining buttons on her shirt. Both of them started at the sound of the door slamming and turned toward her, faces expressionless, Tom's mouth messy with lipstick. Somehow, Val's eyes drifted past them, to the dried-up daisies Tom had given her for their four-month anniversary. They sat on top of the television cabinet, where she'd left them weeks ago. Her mother had wanted Val to throw them out, but she'd forgotten. She could see the stems through the glass vase, the lower portion of them immersed in brackish water and blooming with mold.

Valerie's mother made a choking sound and fumbled to stand, tugging her shirt closed.

"Oh fuck," Tom said, half-falling onto the beige carpet.

Val wanted to say something scathing, something that would burn them both to ashes where they were, but no words came. She turned and walked away.

"Valerie!" her mother called, sounding more desperate than commanding. Looking back, she saw her mother in the doorway, Tom a shadow behind her. Valerie started to run, backpack banging against her hip. She only slowed when she was back at the train station. There, she squatted above the concrete sidewalk, ripping up wilted weeds as she dialed Ruth's number.

Ruth picked up the phone. She sounded as if she'd been laughing. "Hello?"

"It's me," Val said. She expected her voice to shake, but it came out flat, emotionless.

"Hey," Ruth said. "Where are you?"

Val could feel tears start to burn at the edges of her eyes, but the words still came out steady. "I found out something about Tom and my mother--"

"Shit!" Ruth interrupted.

Valerie went silent for a moment, dread making her limbs heavy. "Do you know something? Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"I'm so glad you found out," Ruth said, speaking fast, her words almost tripping over each other. "I wanted to tell you, but your mom begged me not to. She made me swear I wouldn't."

"She told you?" Val felt particularly stupid, but she just couldn't quite accept that she understood what was being said. "You knew?"

"She wouldn't talk about anything else once she found out that Tom let it slip." Ruth laughed and then stopped awkwardly. "Not like it's been going on for that long or anything. Honestly. I would have said something, but your mom promised she would do it. I even told her I was going to tell--but she said she'd deny it. And I did try to drop hints."

"What hints?" Val felt suddenly dizzy. She closed her eyes.

"Well, I said you should check the chat logs, remember? Look, never mind. I'm just glad she finally told you."

"She didn't tell me," Valerie said.

There was a long silence. She could hear Ruth breathing. "Please don't be mad," she said finally. "I just couldn't tell you. I couldn't be the one to tell you."

Val clicked off her phone. She kicked a stray chunk of asphalt into a puddle, and then kicked the puddle itself. Her reflection blurred; the only thing clearly visible was her mouth, a slash of red on a pale face. She smeared it, but the color only spread.

When the next train came, she got on it, sliding into a cracked orange seat and pressing her forehead against the cool plastiglass window. Her phone buzzed and she turned it off without looking at the screen. But as Val turned back toward the window, it was her mother's reflection she saw. It took her a moment to realize she was looking at herself in makeup. Furious, she walked quickly to the train bathroom.

The room was grubby and large, with a sticky rubber floor and hard plastic walls. The odor of urine mingled with the scent of chemical flowers. Small blobs of discarded gum decorated the walls.

Val sat down on the toilet lid and forced herself to relax, to take deep breaths of putrid air. Her fingernails dug into the flesh of her arms and somehow that made her feel a little better, a little more in control.

She was surprised by the force of her own anger. It overwhelmed her, making her afraid she might start screaming at the conductor, at every passenger on the train. She couldn't imagine lasting the whole trip. Already she was exhausted from the effort of keeping it together.

She rubbed her face and looked down at her palm, streaked with burgundy lipstick and shaking slightly. Val unzipped her backpack and poured its contents onto the filthy floor as the train lurched forward.

Her camera clattered on the rubber tile, along with a couple of rolls of film, a book from school--Hamlet--that she was supposed to have already read, a couple of hair ties, a crumpled package of gum, and a travel grooming case her mother had given her for her last birthday. She fumbled to open it--tweezers, manicuring scissors, and a razor, all glimmering in the dim light. Valerie took out the scissors, felt the small, sharp edges. She stood up and looked into the mirror. Grabbing a chunk of her hair, she started to chop.

Stray locks curved around her sneakers like copper snakes when she was done. Val ran a hand over her bald head. It was slick with pink squirt-soap and felt rough as a cat's tongue. She stared at her own reflection, rendered strange and plain, at unflinching eyes and a mouth pressed into a thin line. Specks of hair stuck to her cheeks like fine metal filings. For a moment, she couldn't be sure what that mirror face was thinking.

The razor and manicuring scissors clattered into the sink as the train lurched forward. Water sloshed in the toilet bowl.

"Hello?" someone called from outside the door. "What's going on in there?"

"Just a minute," Val called back. She rinsed off the razor under the tap and shoved it into her backpack. Slinging it over one shoulder, she got a wad of toilet paper, dampened it, and squatted down to mop up her hair.

The mirror caught her eye again as she straightened. This time, a young man looked back at her, his features so delicate that she didn't think he could defend himself. Val blinked, opened the door, and stepped out into the corridor of the train.

She walked back to her seat, feeling the glances of the other passengers flinch from her as she passed. Staring out the window, she watched the suburban lawns slip by until they went under a tunnel and she saw only her new, alien reflection in the window.

The train pulled into an underground station and Val got off, walking through the stink of exhaust. She climbed up a narrow, unmoving escalator, crushed between people. Penn Station was thick with commuters, heads down as they passed one another and stands that sold pendants, scarves, and fiberoptic flowers that glowed with changing colors. Valerie stuck to one of the walls, passing a filthy man sleeping under a newspaper and a group of backpack-wearing girls screaming at one another in German.

The anger she had felt on the train had drained away and Val moved through the station like a sleepwalker.

Madison Square Garden was up another escalator, past a line of taxis and stands selling sugared peanuts and sausages. A man handed her a flyer and she tried to give it back, but he was already past her and she was left holding a sheet of paper promising "LIVE GIRLS." She crunched it up and stuffed it in her pocket.

She pushed through a narrow corridor jammed with people, and waited at the ticket counter. The young guy behind the glass looked up when she pushed Tom's ticket through. He seemed startled. She thought it might be her lack of hair.

"Can you give me my money back for that?" Val asked.

"You already have a ticket?" he asked, squinting at her as though trying to figure out exactly what her scam was.

"Yeah," she said. "My asshole ex-boyfriend couldn't make it."

Understanding spread across his features and he nodded. "Gotcha. Look, I can't give you your money back because the game's already started, but if you give me both I could upgrade you."

"Sure," Val said, and smiled for the first time that whole trip. Tom had already given her the money for his ticket and she was pleased that she could have the small revenge of getting a better seat from it.

He passed her the new ticket and she slid through the turnstile, wading her way through the crowd. People argued, faces flushed. The air stank of beer.

She'd been looking forward to seeing this game. The Rangers were having a great season. But even if they weren't, she loved the way the men moved on the ice, as though they were weightless, all the while balanced on knife blades. It made lacrosse look graceless, just a bunch of people lumbering over some grass. But as she looked for the doorway to her seat, she felt dread roiling in her stomach. The game mattered to all the other people the way it had once mattered to her, but now she was just killing time before she had to go home.

She found the doorway and stepped through. Most of the seats were already occupied and she had to sidle past a group of ruddy-faced guys. They craned their necks to look around her, past the glass divider, to where the game had already started. The stadium smelled cold, the way the air did after a snowstorm. But even as her team skated toward a goal, her thoughts flickered back to her mother and Tom. She shouldn't have left the way she had. She wished she could do it over. She wouldn't even have bothered with her mother. She would have punched Tom in the face. And then, looking just at him, she would have said, "I expected as much from her, but I would have thought better of you." That would have been perfect.

Or maybe she could have smashed the windows of his car. But the car was really a piece of junk, so maybe not.

She could have gone over to Tom's house though, and told his parents about the dime bag of weed he kept between his mattress and box spring. Between that and this thing with Val's mother, maybe his family would have sent him off to some detention facility for mom-fucking, drug-addict freaks.

As for her mother, the best revenge Val could ever have would be to call her dad, get her stepmother, Linda, on speakerphone, and tell them the whole thing. Val's dad and Linda had a perfect marriage, the kind that came with two adorable, drooling kids and wall-to-wall carpeting and mostly made Val sick. But telling them would make the story theirs. They would tell it whenever they wanted, shout it at Val's mother when they fought, report it to shock their golfing buddies. It was Val's story and she was going to control it.

There was a roar from the audience. All around her, people jumped to their feet. One of the Rangers had thrown some guy from the other team down and was ripping off his own gloves. The referee grabbed hold of the Ranger, and his skate slid, slicing a line across the other player's cheek. As they were cleared away, Val stared at the blood on the ice. A man in white came and scraped up most of it and the Zamboni smoothed the ice during halftime, but a patch of red remained, as though the stain had soaked so deep it couldn't be drawn out. Even as her team made the final winning goal and everyone near her surged to their feet again, Val couldn't seem to look away from the blood.

After the game, Val followed the crowd out onto the street. The train station was only a few steps away, but she couldn't face going home. She wanted to delay a little longer, until she could figure things out, dissect what had happened a little more. The very idea of getting back on the train filled her with a sick panic that made her pulse race and her stomach churn.

She started to walk and, after a while, she noticed that the street numbers got smaller and the buildings got older, lanes narrowed and the traffic thinned out. Turning left, toward what she thought might be the edge of the West Village, she passed closed clothing stores and rows of parked cars. She wasn't quite sure of the time, but it had to be nearly midnight.

Her mind kept unraveling the looks between Tom and her mother, glances that now had meaning, hints she should have picked up on. She saw her mother's face, some weird combination of guilt and honesty, when she'd told Val to wait for Tom. The memory made Val flinch, as though her body were trying to throw off a physical weight.

She stopped and got a slice of pizza at a sleepy shop where a woman with a shopping cart full of bottles sat in the back, drinking Sprite through a straw and singing to herself. The hot cheese burned the roof of Val's mouth, and when she looked up at the clock, she realized she'd already missed the last train home.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Holly Black

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Guide for TITHE, VALIANT, and IRONSIDE
By Holly Black
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Holly Black's first Young Adult novel, the urban fantasy/faerie tale Tithe, focuses on a sixteen-year-old girl named Kaye who is actually a pixie, only at first she doesn't know it. Kaye starts to piece together the strange story of her real identity when she and her mother return to the New Jersey town where she grew up, and Kaye comes in contact with the faeries she used to play with as a child and a wounded knight, Roiben, who will change her life forever. Black's second book, Valiant, picks up where Tithe leaves off, but follows a different girl — a human named Val — who catches her boyfriend and her mother in a compromising position and runs away from home. In New York City, Val hooks up with a strange group of homeless teens and joins them in living in an abandoned subway station. It's not long before Val learns that these teens are not like anyone she's ever met — they work as couriers for a troll and come in contact with faeries on a regular basis. Ironside, Black's third book, returns readers to Kaye's story, beginning two months after the ending of Tithe. Roiben is about to take the throne of the Unseelie Court and there will undoubtedly be a war, but then Kaye makes a foolish declaration and is sent on an impossible quest. Luis and Dave from Valiant become an integral part of the story as Kaye is forced to visit Silarial, the Seelie queen, to try to save Roiben and herself.
DISCUSSION TOPICS
How does Tithe compare with other fairy tale books you've read in the past? Did you like the modern setting?
If you were Kaye, what gift would you have given to the kelpie if the broken carousel horse had not been available?
What other orders would you have asked Rath Roiben Rye to carry out if you suddenly knew his full name? (Don't forget his skill of turning leaves into money!)
For New Jersey and New York readers: Name all of the real locations that were mentioned in the three books — for example: Allaire State Park, Café des Artistes, etc.
If you were able to choose, would you want to be a part of the Seelie court, the Unseelie court, the solitary fey, or the human world? Why?
At the end of Tithe, what do you imagine happened to Roiben and Kaye? Before you read the sequel, how did you feel about the ending of Tithe? Would you have ended the book differently?
Were you excited to see cameos by some of the characters from Tithe in Valiant?
Who is your favorite character from Valiant? Why? What qualities does this character possess that make him/her most interesting to you?
If Valiant was made into a movie, what current film or TV stars would you cast as Val, Lolli, Dave, Luis, Ravus and the others?
Put yourself in Lolli's shoes — tell the story of Valiant from her point of view. What do you think happened to Lolli at the end of the book?
What did you think of the use of the faerie drug "Never" in the story? Did you think that the book showed enough of the downside of using drugs? If Dave had never taken the drug, how do you think his story would change? What about Lolli? Val?
We know that Kaye got her GED during the two months between the end of Tithe and the beginning of Ironside. What else do you think happened during this interim? How did Kaye cope with the loss of Janet, her mom moving away, her relationship with Roiben, etc.?
Ironside obviously takes place in December — what are the clues that tell you what time of year it is?
If you were cursed like Corny, would you immediately get to the ocean to cure yourself or would you attempt to touch someone or something? Whom or what?
Do you think it was a mistake for Kaye to have the young human brought back to Ellen? Do you think the girl will grow up to be a normal person?
If you were in Kaye's position with no need for college and the ability to create a new life for yourself, what would you do? What do you think of Kaye's coffee shop plans and her idea of dividing her time between it and Roiben?
Which adventurous duo do you think had a more challenging or exciting task: Val and Luis going after Mabry for Ravus's heart or Kaye and Corny traveling to the Seelie Court to strike a deal with Silarial?
Should there be additional books in this series? How would the story continue? Which character besides Kaye or Val would you like to see explored in another book?
Were any of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter familiar to you? Choose a few of your favorites and discuss how they relate to what happened in the story at that point.
RESEARCH AND ACTIVITIES
Create a Tithe board game that follows Kaye's travels between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and the human world. Playing pieces can represent something about each character — Kaye's purple cat suit, Roiben's long white hair, Corny's beat-up car, etc. Use obstacles like iron, thorns, ogres, and the Unseelie queen. Make minor characters part of the game (Janet, Kenny, Ellen) by detouring major players to save them from the kelpie. Be creative!
Make a clay sculpture, a painting, a drawing, or other piece of art of your favorite character from any of the books. What do you think they would actually look like?
Make an Unseelie feast! Re-create dishes that Kaye sees when she sneaks into the Unseelie court, then invent your own interesting recipes.
Write a spell for creating a glamour, then read it aloud to the group. Describe the new look you have created.
Choose your favorite scene and act it out in front of the group. If several people wish to be involved, choose a scene that features many characters. Make your performance as simple or as elaborate as you choose by adding costumes and props or just reading dialogue aloud from the book.
Assuming that Kaye's grandmother lives in Long Branch, New Jersey, get an atlas and map out the route that Kaye and Corny (and later, Luis) took during the course of their travels in Ironside.
Design your own sword — either patterned after the glass one Ravus used to teach Val how to fight or one of your own creation. Draw a detailed picture of your design.

Introduction

A Reading Guide for TITHE, VALIANT, and IRONSIDE

By Holly Black

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Holly Black's first Young Adult novel, the urban fantasy/faerie tale Tithe, focuses on a sixteen-year-old girl named Kaye who is actually a pixie, only at first she doesn't know it. Kaye starts to piece together the strange story of her real identity when she and her mother return to the New Jersey town where she grew up, and Kaye comes in contact with the faeries she used to play with as a child and a wounded knight, Roiben, who will change her life forever. Black's second book, Valiant, picks up where Tithe leaves off, but follows a different girl — a human named Val — who catches her boyfriend and her mother in a compromising position and runs away from home. In New York City, Val hooks up with a strange group of homeless teens and joins them in living in an abandoned subway station. It's not long before Val learns that these teens are not like anyone she's ever met — they work as couriers for a troll and come in contact with faeries on a regular basis. Ironside, Black's third book, returns readers to Kaye's story, beginning two months after the ending of Tithe. Roiben is about to take the throne of the Unseelie Court and there will undoubtedly be a war, but then Kaye makes a foolish declaration and is sent on an impossible quest. Luis and Dave from Valiant become an integral part of the story as Kaye is forced to visit Silarial, the Seelie queen, to try to save Roiben and herself.

DISCUSSION TOPICS

How does Tithe compare with other fairy tale books you've read in the past? Did you like the modernsetting?

If you were Kaye, what gift would you have given to the kelpie if the broken carousel horse had not been available?

What other orders would you have asked Rath Roiben Rye to carry out if you suddenly knew his full name? (Don't forget his skill of turning leaves into money!)

For New Jersey and New York readers: Name all of the real locations that were mentioned in the three books — for example: Allaire State Park, Caf - des Artistes, etc.

If you were able to choose, would you want to be a part of the Seelie court, the Unseelie court, the solitary fey, or the human world? Why?

At the end of Tithe, what do you imagine happened to Roiben and Kaye? Before you read the sequel, how did you feel about the ending of Tithe? Would you have ended the book differently?

Were you excited to see cameos by some of the characters from Tithe in Valiant?

Who is your favorite character from Valiant? Why? What qualities does this character possess that make him/her most interesting to you?

If Valiant was made into a movie, what current film or TV stars would you cast as Val, Lolli, Dave, Luis, Ravus and the others?

Put yourself in Lolli's shoes — tell the story of Valiant from her point of view. What do you think happened to Lolli at the end of the book?

What did you think of the use of the faerie drug "Never" in the story? Did you think that the book showed enough of the downside of using drugs? If Dave had never taken the drug, how do you think his story would change? What about Lolli? Val?

We know that Kaye got her GED during the two months between the end of Tithe and the beginning of Ironside. What else do you think happened during this interim? How did Kaye cope with the loss of Janet, her mom moving away, her relationship with Roiben, etc.?

Ironside obviously takes place in December — what are the clues that tell you what time of year it is?

If you were cursed like Corny, would you immediately get to the ocean to cure yourself or would you attempt to touch someone or something? Whom or what?

Do you think it was a mistake for Kaye to have the young human brought back to Ellen? Do you think the girl will grow up to be a normal person?

If you were in Kaye's position with no need for college and the ability to create a new life for yourself, what would you do? What do you think of Kaye's coffee shop plans and her idea of dividing her time between it and Roiben?

Which adventurous duo do you think had a more challenging or exciting task: Val and Luis going after Mabry for Ravus's heart or Kaye and Corny traveling to the Seelie Court to strike a deal with Silarial?

Should there be additional books in this series? How would the story continue? Which character besides Kaye or Val would you like to see explored in another book?

Were any of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter familiar to you? Choose a few of your favorites and discuss how they relate to what happened in the story at that point.

RESEARCH AND ACTIVITIES

Create a Tithe board game that follows Kaye's travels between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and the human world. Playing pieces can represent something about each character — Kaye's purple cat suit, Roiben's long white hair, Corny's beat-up car, etc. Use obstacles like iron, thorns, ogres, and the Unseelie queen. Make minor characters part of the game (Janet, Kenny, Ellen) by detouring major players to save them from the kelpie. Be creative!

Make a clay sculpture, a painting, a drawing, or other piece of art of your favorite character from any of the books. What do you think they would actually look like?

Make an Unseelie feast! Re-create dishes that Kaye sees when she sneaks into the Unseelie court, then invent your own interesting recipes.

Write a spell for creating a glamour, then read it aloud to the group. Describe the new look you have created.

Choose your favorite scene and act it out in front of the group. If several people wish to be involved, choose a scene that features many characters. Make your performance as simple or as elaborate as you choose by adding costumes and props or just reading dialogue aloud from the book.

Assuming that Kaye's grandmother lives in Long Branch, New Jersey, get an atlas and map out the route that Kaye and Corny (and later, Luis) took during the course of their travels in Ironside.

Design your own sword — either patterned after the glass one Ravus used to teach Val how to fight or one of your own creation. Draw a detailed picture of your design.

Holly Black spent her early years in a decaying Victorian mansion where her mother fed her a steady diet of ghost stories and books about faeries. Her first book, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Teens, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and has been translated into twelve languages. Her second teen novel, Valiant, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Locus Magazine Recommended Read, and a recipient of the Andre Norton Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit Holly at www.blackholly.com.

Customer Reviews

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Valiant (Modern Tale of Faerie Series #2) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 337 reviews.
xiv More than 1 year ago
I read this when it it first came out years and years ago it seems now (I was in middle school and now I'm in college) and omg its still amazing. I still remember how much I hated Ravus at his first introduction and gradually gaining a crush. Plus this I think was the first book that really introduced me to modern New York as an awesome place in and of itself - I did my best to visit some of the localities mentioned in this book while there. Holly Black you rock!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!!!
7hir7een More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time shortly after reading Tithe. I remember I was surprised to find out that it doesn’t focus on Kaye and Roiben, although they do make an appearance. However, I don’t think the book is lacking because of it. Val is another teen with a dysfunctional past that comes to be mixed up in things she doesn’t understand, falling into the world of Faerie. The concept of Never is a very intriguing one, and I like that its use does have consequences for the characters by the end. I loved Ravus’s character. I never really thought I would be rooting for a troll as a romantic interest, but there you have it. If you read and liked Tithe, or you’d like to read a dark fantasy novel with themes of faeries, magic, betrayal and consequences, I’d recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it well i have never read the first or third one but this book wwas kind of romantic like beauty and the beast but a really deformed one i hope holly black makes a forth one!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am suprised by all of the low reviews. I found it enchanting.
IANHTHS More than 1 year ago
This story is about a girl named Val who has a lesbian best friend and a cheating boyfriend. It starts off with Val at high school as a lacrosse player, she is dating this guy who she finds out is cheating on her with her mom. When Val finds this out she runs away from home and meets this group of runaway kids. One is named lolli, the others are Louis and Dave. She then helps a drag queen find his shoe and then she gets the nick name prince valiant. The entire group likes her except for Louis. Later the group shows her to their troll named Ravus, he makes this drug called glamour, he lives under a bridge like a real troll. The kids get Val hooked on this drug. Val and Ravus begin to get closer. Ruth shows up and asks her to come home. She says yes but that she needs to say goodbye to Ravus first. She goes off to find him but cant , she ends up heading back to this castle and everyone's acting really weird. Val wakes up during the middle of the night and is lead to this party by fairies. Ravus is there and Val kisses him. Val sees Mabry and figures out that she is the one that was poisoning the Glamour and killing the fairies. Mabry tells Ravus that it was Val that did it and she leaves before Ravus gets to mad. So Val and Ruth go searching for evidence and find a harp with hair of the murdered people. Dave gets to high and almost dies so they try to take him to Ravus but find him dead with no heart, Mabry had killed him. Val finds Mabry and challenges her and defeats her for Ravus's heart. They put his heart back into his body and he is instantly healed. He gives Louis the things he needs to heal Dave and then tells Val that he loves her. Val goes back with Ruth but still sees Ravus.
KayTay911 More than 1 year ago
While lots of people are hating the fact that it's not about Kaye, or that the characters are druggie subway bums, I still think this story has a lot to offer. I loved the characters, even the ones that got a little bit crazy. They might not have been excellent role models, but they were gritty and real and showed off their dark sides, which other authors typically avoid- one of the things I love about Holly black's books. And I loved Val. She was portrayed so realistically, with very believable emotions, because she doesn't start out a hero. In the story she goes from average teenager to faery drug addict, and she has to overcome those things in the end and realize her mistakes to become, as the title says, valiant. The way she makes mistakes only makes her more likable. I took off a star because the ending seemed a bit rushed, but all through the beginning I was completely sucked into this dark, hypnotic world. It gets pretty sexual and there's smoking/drinking/drugs, etc, but if you can handle that along with the lack of Kaye and Roiben then this is an absolute must-read. Also, it's helpful to read this one because a character, Luis, ends up being very important in Ironside, the continuing story of Kaye and Roiben. (:
constantly_reading More than 1 year ago
I preffered this to the other novels in the 'Modern Tale of Faerie' series, it was the first I read and, although the others were great reads, I don't think they lived up to 'Valiant'. While I was a little put off by the beginning, which seems like a typically angst ridden teenage romance, once in New York this becomes an amazingly original novel, bringing together a city we know so well with Holly Black's world of magic, and putting a refreshing twist on teenage romance.
EllieUnderground More than 1 year ago
Val's story starts out with an average high school girl, a character who is very true to life, and then is brought into fantastic situations. The book may seem edgy, and dark, but everything in it feels very real. A lot of people don't like that the main characters are primarily drug-addicted bums, but they still show a lot of character- both good and bad. Val runs away from home to make her own decisions and ends up discovering more than she had ever imagined. I was completely immersed in the story and read it all at once, for hours upon hours. I was so into the story I could see it all happening, picture Ravus with his fanged underbite and Mabry's entire house. Valiant is a reader's story. It is not a kid's book, obviously, due to the drugs, and the sex, and the violence, but those are used sparsely and not heavily detailed, aside from the Never, which needs that kind of description. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but I might be a little embarrassed to admit how many times I've gone back and read it over- that's up to almost ten now. I can't give it a passing glance without stopping to read just a little bit over again. It's a world so close to ours, and so similar with characters that are very relatable, and emotions that are strong enough for you to feel them yourself.A warning, however: don't start reading this book if you have anything important (meetings for business, school, etc.) pending, because you will most likely get lost in the pages.
Anassa More than 1 year ago
I like the series as a whole, but was a little disappointed in Valiant having switched the main characters. If want to read more about Kaye and Roiben, and have the relationship develop, be prepared to be disappointed in Valiant. It's a great story from a diffrent part of the whole story, and pieces a few things together, but was hard for me to warm up to new leading characters for only one book, after spending two books with diffrent ones. Still overall a good book.
FayTannerr 9 months ago
I loved Valiant. It was an amazing blend of fantasy and romance mixed with the harsh reality of living on the streets of New York city. I really liked Val. She was brave, tough and valiant. Ravus and Luis were really interesting characters. As well as Lolli, Ruth and Dave. The plot was well written and it was really hard to put this book down! This is definitely a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good
klarsenmd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quickly paced urban fantasy, this is the follow up to Tithe. It tells the story of Val, a runaway who falls into a faerie filled world when she is taken in b a group of homeless youth in NYC. It was entertaining and easy to read with the dark undertones of both faeries and humans tainting all the characters.
AriadneAranea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Val, betrayed by her mother and boyfriend, runs away to the city and ends up living rough in an underground station, running errands for fairies, getting high on magical potions stolen from a troll, and rushing headlong to destruction...This is not quite a sequel to Tithe, but is set (sort of) in the same real/fae world, with a few overlapping characters in the background. It is more intense, darker, a little bit weirder and at least as good as Tithe, if not better.
pocketmermaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to listen to this audiobook a few years after not being very impressed with the first book in the Modern Faerie series while I waited for the second book Holly Black's Curse Workers series to be released. Well, Curse Workers is the series I prefer. The Modern Faerie series isn't for me. It's a little too gritty for me. Though I appreciate this book was a fantastic way of telling a story I didn't really like, if that makes any sense.I enjoyed the way Black uses the framework of the "Beauty & the Beast" tell to shape her story here without making it a straight-up retelling. I liked Val's independence, but I'd hesitate to call her a strong protagonist. I liked some of the magical elements, but like I said, this book wasn't for me.There's also a scene in the book that had me sobbing hysterically and feeling just disgustingly awful for a long time after. If I had known about it beforehand, I would never have picked up this book. So, here's my warning in hopes it may help someone (without being too spoilery) -- if you are sensitive to any kind of animal abuse, do not read this book.
LaPhenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So the first book has that, little bit weird, raunchy beginning, this on has the little bit screwed up, touch of raunchy everything-but-the-ending. I was far from prepared for the 3/4 the book where we're following drug addict street kids and the ending hardly made up for it. I get the whole modern fairy tale thing, but DAMN! Some of the things the author passes off as acceptable in the book (morally) are so awfully twisted they deserve rebuke, but I'll spare you. Overall the book wasn't terrible, but I would have thought twice had I realized what I was getting into. The first book hardly hinted at the lows Black's characters might sink to.
allify on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has all the elements that I like in a book and yet it doesn't quite do it for me. There was action, and yet it seemed forced, kind of like fake action, or action just for the sake of being there. There was romance, but that too seemed artificial. I could see the romantic tension but could not feel it.I did love the concept of Nevermore; that was quite inventive. I also liked how the concept of fairy courts was likened to that of gangs. It made it much more plausible, much more believable. Despite its merits, I wasn't satisfied with Valiant. It needed more strength. It just needed more.
the1butterfly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though I didn't connect to the characters and their choices in this story, I was drawn into it the way that I was drawn into Tithe. I wanted to see things going right, and I was relieved when things came together in the end. I did get more into the book as Val started falling in love with the troll- I'm weird in my romance like that...
Suzanne520 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was so much better than the last one!Even though it followed different characters, I found it easy to be pulled into this story.I felt like the writing was much more clear in this book than the last. I stopped feeling like I missed pages and paragraphs with only one exception. I felt these characters were more developed also, and I didn;t feel like this book was rushed at all. I truly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next one!
rglightyear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
See my review for Tithe. I think I like this one a bit more than the last one.
Finleyup1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that grabbed me out of the gate and held my attention to the end. If you're looking for Spiderwick, this book is by no means for children. Even though it is touted as a young adult reader, the content and the language was extremely adult in nature. The connections with the children's series made this book feel familiar. I enjoyed it.
roguelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plot: Val feels shocked and betrayed when she accidentally discovers a secret her mother, her boyfriend and her best friend had been keeping from her. She runs to New York and falls in with a trio of street kids. But these are no ordinary runaways. Luis has the sight; he can see fairies. Val soon becomes a messenger for a troll and addicted to a strange magical drug. She also becomes drawn into a series of faerie murders that she must solve to save her new friends and her new love.This is the second book in Black¿s Modern Tale of Faerie series but it is not a sequel to Tithe; it is more of a parallel story.Val, Luis, Dave and Ravus all appear in Ironside and they are peripherally aware of the events in Tithe but Valiant is its own story. Val is a great character. Though she loses herself and makes serious mistakes (the drug addiction notably), she ultimately proves herself to be brave and strong, valiant as Dave calls her. She is not a girl who is saved, she saves everyone else.And, because I always need to comment on the romance, I love the concept of it in this novel. It is so completely different from romance in most faerie stories. Val does not fall for the inhumanly beautiful, immoral faerie prince. She falls in love with the monstrous faerie with a good heart. My one complaint was that there was little build up to their romance.We know that they¿re in love because we¿re told but we don¿t really see it happen. I¿d love to see more of their developing feelings in the future, more than the few pages they get at the end of Ironside. Meanwhile the twisted relationship between Dave and Lolli is in many ways what drives the plot of the novel, his desire for her and her disdain of him. They are both twisted by their addictions and their desires; they do bad and stupid things that hurt themselves and those around them. But the way Black writes them is very human. So while you might shake your head at some of the things they do, like Luis, you cannot truly hate them.Black has created a fascinating world with a wonderful cast of characters. I look forward to more though I¿ll probably have to wait some time. To date there is a collection of short stories, Poison Eaters, which takes place in the same universe but Black claims to have no plans to write a fourth Modern Tale of Faerie the near future.
LadyoftheLodge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not my kind of novel at all, regardless of its awards. I can see how this would not be appropriate for some community PL's, with its sex, drugs, and profanity. I actually hated this novel, it gave me nightmares.
mmillet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn¿t love `Tithe¿ and I just couldn¿t bring myself to enjoy it¿s pseudo-sequel `Valiant¿. Too much drug-induced fog, weird teenage promiscuity, and an odd relationship between a teenage girl and a troll that wasn¿t exactly believable. A little too much angst and teenage disaffection for my liking.
-AlyssaE- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved the way that Holly Black did these stories. I thought that this story was supposed to be continuing Tithe. But to tell the truth i was gettin bored with the characters by the end of the book. So i was happy to find out that this book was not about the same characters. This book is also a pretty quick read.