Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Tithe

Bibliographic Data
Black, Holly. Tithe. New York: Simon Pulse, 2004. ISBN 0689867042.

Plot Summary
Sixteen year old Kaye meets a beautiful, mysterious, wounded man in a thunderstorm. His name is Roiben. Roiben has superhuman speed and reflexes, and something about him fascinates her. Could Roibin be the answer to all the strange things that have happened to her throughout her life? Or does he represent only deadly danger to her? Kaye's answers should be beyond human understanding, but if so, why does Kaye understand them?

Critical Analysis
Kaye has always thought she was a little different than the other teenagers she knew. Her friend, Janet, calls her weird. Most teens have this feeling of not quite fitting in, of being strange, but in Kaye's case, she finds out that she has good reason to feel this way. She is a changeling child. The faeries exchanged her for a human child back when both Kaye and the human were just babies. Kaye is 16 now and finally finding out that she is not human. Combined with Kaye's satisfaction at finally knowing for sure that she IS different is the feeling of betrayal. Why didn't the faeries she knew as a child not tell her of her real identity? Why did she have to wait so long to find out that what she'd felt all those years was real?

          ""You are one of us," the Thistlewitch said to Kaye, black
          eyes glittering like jewels.

          "What?" She'd hear what was said, she understood, she
          was just stalling for time for her brain to start working
          again. she could not seem to get a breath of air into her
          lungs. There were grades to impossible, levels, at least of
          unreality. And each time Kaye thought she was at the
          lowest level, the ground seemed to open up beneath her.

          "Mortal girls are stupid and slow," Little said. "You don't have
          to pretend anymore."

          She was shaking her head, but even as she did it, she knew it
          was true. It felt true, unbalancing and rebalancing her world so
          neatly that she wondered how she didn't think of it before now.
          After all, why would only she be visited by faeries? Why would
          only she have magic she couldn't control?

          "Why didn't you tell me?" Kaye demanded.

          "Too chancy," Spike said.

          "So why are you telling me now?"

          "Because it is you who will be chosen for the Tithe." The
          Thistlewitch crossed her lanky arms serenely. "And because
          it is your right to know" (96-97).

Now that Kaye DOES know, she revels in her newfound freedom. To remove the 'glamour,' the spell that enables her to pass for human instead of the green pixie that she really is, she rolls in clover that night and then discovers that she can't change back. She runs to Janet's house but Janet is at school. Janet's brother, Corny, is at work, right next door, though. With Corny's help, Kaye also sprouts her wings.

Kaye tells Corny everything, about how she's seen faeries since she was little, about how she was a changeling, and even about the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the two courts that rule over all the faeries in the area. She and Corny decide to consult the kelpie, a dangerous water beast that helped her save Roibin the night she met him.Corny accompanies Kaye on her explorations, both to the kelpie and later into the Unseelie Court itself. Roiben is also at the Court, and when he sees Kaye, the Unseelie Queen notices he is attached to her. Believing Kaye to still be a human, the Queen orders Roiben to sacrifice Kaye in the ritual of the Tithe, a human sacrifice that keeps the faerie folk subordinate to the Unseelie Court.

Even though Roiben's feelings for Kaye are strong, he is magically bound to the Unseelie Queen and forced to obey her every command. He prepares Kaye for the sacrifice.

Kaye has a secret weapon, though. She knows Roiben's full name, and that knowledge enables her to order Roiben to save her. In the ensuing fight, the Unseelie Queen is killed, and Roiben and Kaye escape.

In the meantime, though, Corny has met the faerie Seelie knight, Nephamael. Even though Corny is physically hurt, he and Nephamael begin an affair. This results in Corny being unable to leave the Unseelie Court because he is bewitched by Nephamael. Thus, Kaye's quest is set. Not only has she tricked the Unseelie Court into attempting to sacrifice a non-human, thus setting her childhood faerie friends free, but she also must rescue Corny from his self-inflicted captivity.

In a highly symbolic moment, Kaye finds the human Kaye that she had been switched with so many years before. The child is in the Seelie Court, not the Unseelie Court, where Kaye would have expected her to be. Up to this moment, Kaye has regarded the Unseelie Court as evil and the Seelie Court as the romantic faerie tale courts of legend. But now, armed with the knowledge that the two faerie Courts are both evil in their own ways, Kaye is forced to resolve a personal dilmena. Will Kaye choose to continue on her quest to rescue Corny or will her personal desire to find out about herself win out - causing her to stay behind to seek the answers to all her qudstions?

"But when she saw herself, she knew. The almond eyes sat oddly against the mopo of blond hair, making the child look fey despite her chuby body and round ears. Asian and blond. Kaye could manage nothing more than staring as the girl--far, far too young to be Kaye in any reasonable world--picked a weed and, wrapping the stem carefully, flung the head in the direction of a pretty faerie lady who laughed.

All the questions Kaye wanted to ask chocked her. She turned on her heel and stomped back to Roiben... grabbing his arm hard.

"We have to go now," she shouted, furious and trembling. "Corny could be dead (295).

Kaye's search for Corny is successful, and Corny, awoken from hiks enchantment, kills Nephamael, who has assumed the throne of the Unseelie Court. Now the Unseelie Court has no King or Queen, but Roiben has been freed by Kaye when she used his name, and he declares himself King of the Unseelie Court.

Kaye returns to the human world with her 'glamour' intact, but misses Roiben. At the very end. Roiben returns fo rher. It will be interesting to read inthe sequel how deep Roiben's feelings run for Kaye. Will he make her his Queen?

Awards and Honors
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2005; American Library Association    YALSA; United States.
Teen Top Ten 2003: American Library Association YALSA; United States.
Best 2002 Books for the Teenage: The New York Public Library

Review Excerpts
Annette Wells (KLIATT Review, July 2004 (Vol. 38, No. 4))
16-year-old Kaye lives with an alcoholic rock star mom, whose lifestyle lends itself to travel and minimal attachment. The only consistent thing in Kaye's childhood is the visitation by her faerie friends, and her ability to make strange things happen, inhuman things like making a decrepit merry-go-round horse come to life. She is a sarcastic, sometimes bitter, edgy young woman struggling to find her place in a world that offers little in return. Then one night, following a disastrous, rainy night with friends, she rescues a Faerie Knight named Roiben on her way home. In this brief but pivotal moment, she tricks him into revealing his name, fully aware of the power this gives her, and then finds herself in the throes of a crush on someone she knows is not of this world. The real twist of the story is when she discovers that she herself is not human, having been "glamoured" to hide her true, shimmering green, pixie self. She then becomes a pawn in a rival war between two distinct faerie kingdoms, the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. After many twists, turns, and bloodshed, the story ends happily, but not without sacrifice. This YA fantasy is definitely more appropriate for an older, more mature audience. Sexual references and situations abound, including homosexuality, as does profanity and alcohol use.

Book Hook
1. Pair this book with the other books in Holly Black's Faerie series: Valiant: A
    Modern Tale of Faerie and Ironside: a Modern Faery's Tale.
2. Holly Black is also co-author of the popular children's series, The Spiderwick

Online Connections
Holly Black's website.
Holly Black's blog.

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