Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 259 (10/20) -- The Good Neighbors, Book 2: Kith by Black and Naifeh

A good neighbor is one who keeps to himself -- he minds his own business and lets you mind yours. Oh, sure, maybe he lends you a stick of butter or a lawn chair now and then; maybe you even get together to burn some meat in the backyard a couple of times a year, but what neighbors can give each other, most of all, is distance. But in this contemporary fantasy series, "good neighbors" is ironic at best -- think of it like calling the Furies "the Kindly Ones," in hopes that they'll leave you alone -- since these neighbors just won't keep their distance.

In the first "Good Neighbors" book, Kin -- by writer Holly Black and artist Ted Naifeh, like this one, and which I reviewed for ComicMix a couple of years back -- teenager Rue Silver learned that her heritage was not what she had thought it was; her professor father had won her faerie mother about twenty years before, and could keep her as long as he was faithful to her. (Unfortunately, her dad set that book's plot in motion by not being faithful.) Her maternal grandfather, Aubrey, is the leader of the local faeries (as usually happens in stories like this; feudalism is so deeply rooted in fantasy that it pops up everywhere), and he'd like to bring Rue to his world.

In Kin, Rue learned who she was, discovered her mother wasn't dead, and defied her newly-met grandfather. But in Kith, the focus turns (as the title indicates) to her friends -- a loose circle of girls and boys that aren't clearly distinguished in the early pages here, unfortunately, since their complicated love relationships are important to the plot -- as Aubrey and the faeries shift tactics. If they can't bring Rue to faerie, after all, perhaps they can do the opposite? Rue is still playing defense -- trying to figure out what's going on, and to stop it -- but she's a fast learner, and she does have a strain of faerie in her blood for the requisite cruelty to oppose Aubrey effectively.

Kith is very much a middle book, expanding on the story of Kin, adding complications, and ending with a new status quo that will lead directly into the third book, Kind. The characters aren't introduced here -- leading to the problem I mentioned above, of not really knowing who Rue's friends are and which of them should be making out with whom -- though there is some added backstory, particularly for Aubrey's human servant Tam. And the conflicts here -- Rue against Aubrey, her parents' rocky marriage -- are again continuing from the first book, though parts of that conflict are very strongly resolved at the end of Kith. So Kith is less successful as a standalone than Kin was, but that's only to be expected for a middle book. Kith does well what it should do -- complicate and deepen the story of Kin, and create new situations that will make Kind clearly different from the first two books -- but it feels a bit like a corridor rather than a room.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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