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If you’ve ever wanted to take a sword into the woods and battle monsters, this is the book for you. The Darkest Part of the Forest is a dark fairy tale that manages to be really fun and swashbuckle-y while also upending gender stereotypes in some cool and unexpected ways.

Hazel and her brother Ben have lived in Fairfold most of their lives, a town right on the edge of a fairy forest. For the most part, the humans and the fae have gotten along okay, but relations get tense and Hazel will have to find a way to defend her brother and her hometown from the encroaching fae. Black does a really nice job telling a story that feels very contemporary and modern in the way she depicts Hazel and Ben’s high school lives, but somehow simultaneously timeless and storybookish in their time in the forest. Mixing the two is tricky and loaded with pitfalls, but each section rings true and Hazel remains a stoic, kickass presence throughout.

I don’t always go in for stories about the fae. I’m not sure why, because every time I do, I end up having a great time. Maybe it’s because they’re tricksy, and I don’t have a ton of patience for that in my real life? As a reader, though, it can be kind of fun to shout from the couch, “Don’t take their food!” and “Don’t make that bargain!” But the characters do it anyway. They always do it anyway.