Holly Black

The Darkest Part of The Forest

  • This summary of The Darkest Part of The Forest includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

The Darkest Part of The Forest Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Darkest Part of The Forest by Holly Black.

First published in 2015, The Darkest Part of The Forest is a young adult fantasy novel by Holly Black. The story takes place in a world where humans and faeries live side-by-side, and two siblings must weather the challenges of growing up alongside the dangers of the “fae.” Black is a prolific author of fiction for children and teens, and her titles include such works as The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Doll Bones. She has received a Newbery Honor, the Andre Norton Award, and the Mythopoeic Award.
In the strange town of Fairfold, Pennsylvania, humans and faeries live side-by-side in an uneasy truce. Sometimes people go missing in Fairfold, but no one wants to talk about it because tourists flock to the town to see the faeries and experience their magic. If the tourists thought the faeries were dangerous, they would stop coming, and the town’s economy would suffer. But Hazel and Ben Evans, a pair of local teens, know just how dangerous the faeries can actually be. They have hunted faeries since they were children (Hazel with her sword, and Ben with his hypnotizing music), and Hazel has always wanted to be a warrior.
Fairfold sits on the edge of a forest, and deep within that forest, there has existed a glass coffin for as long as anyone can remember. Inside sleeps a boy with horns and pointed ears, and one of the town’s popular tourist attractions is to kiss the glass coffin to see if you will be the one to wake him. No one ever does, of course, but that has not stopped both Hazel and Ben from falling in love with the boy. Though the coffin is a tourist destination by day, at night, the local teens throw wild parties there—a brave feat considering that all Fairfold children are also taught about the monster living in the forest.
As Hazel and Ben have aged, however, things have gotten more complicated. Her faerie hunting days of childhood long past, Hazel now makes out with every guy in town except Jack, Ben’s best friend whom she secretly loves. Jack is a faerie changeling who was swapped with Carter, an African American human baby. When Carter’s mother figured it out, she set a trap for the faerie mother, then decided to keep both babies in order to teach the faerie a lesson. Jack now identifies and appears as an African American teen. Ben is a talented musician, but sees his talent as part-gift, part-curse, because he feels it controls his life.
One day, it is discovered that the glass coffin is broken, and no one can find the boy who was inside. Things get stranger when tourists begin disappearing and locals fall into comas. It seems that without the horned boy, the monster in the forest has turned against Fairfold. As a changeling, Jack is the primes suspect among the townsfolk. Stranger still, Hazel, Ben, and Jack begin receiving cryptic notes. With oatmeal in their pockets and their socks inside out to protect them from spells, they follow the notes. But the notes seem to point to Hazel having sent them herself despite the fact that she has no memory of doing so.
Hazel encounters the Alderking, the king of the faeries, who demands that she bring Severin (the horned boy who is actually a faerie prince) to him, as well as a sword that Hazel found when she was a child. It is revealed that several years prior, Hazel made a bargain with the faeries to give her brother musical talent. In exchange, Hazel agreed to give the faeries seven years of her life. At night, Hazel is a warrior in service to the Alderking, but thanks to his magic, when she wakes in the morning, she has no memory of what transpired the night before.
Hazel discovers that the Alderking plans to use the power of Sorrow, Severin’s sister, to destroy a neighboring faerie kingdom. Severin killed Sorrow’s husband long ago, and while he was cursed to sleep in the glass coffin, the Alderking used her grief to turn her into monster in the woods. Although her bargain with the Alderking is not yet finished, Hazel decides that she is tired of obeying him. Wishing to wake Severin, save her town, and rescue her loved ones, she breaks the boy out of his glass coffin, then leaves notes behind so that her daytime self will be able to figure out the mystery.
Now that she knows she is the warrior she always dreamed she would be, Hazel faces off with the Alderking, and using the sword from her childhood, manages to kill him. With the Alderking gone, Sorrow is freed from his influence and stops harassing the town. Ben gives Severin a kiss of true love and is able to awaken him from his curse. Hazel confesses her love to Jack, and the two become a couple. Severin returns Ben’s love, and Ben decides to stay with Severin in the faerie land.