Title: The Unfairfolk
Author: Sara Wolf
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Series: Valenbound #1
Genre/s and tags: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal/Thriller
Content warnings: “This book contains mentions of a car/train crash, heavy mention of parental abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment, alcohol, drugs and drug use, nicotine use, self-harm, and heavy mention of blood.”
A promise made is a promise kept, until the very end of all death.
Sixteen year old Lilith Pierce’s mom is getting remarried. Which, sucks. To one of the richest men in Europe. Which, honestly? Sucks a little less.
Lilith’s warily stoked – after Dad disappeared, it’s been all tears and police visits and sleeping pills for Mom. So, yeah. She’ll suck it up for seven months and get shipped off to the ultra-luxe, ultra-selective Institut Le Silvere – a prestigious boarding school in the Swiss Alps – while they honeymoon. How hard can it really be? It’s not like she’s got maybe-permanent hypervigilance, or anything.
It’s not like the woods around the school are maybe-alive.
It’s not like she’s being stalked by a man with glowing red eyes.
It’s not like the neighboring village whispers that all the students are cursed.
It’s not like resident model Ciel Lautrec is the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen, or anything. Too beautiful to be human. So beautiful the hypervigilance shuts right up. It’s not like she can’t handle Silvere’s self-appointed, self-conceited lawkeeper slash bully Alistair Strickland. Because she can. She can handle it all.
She’s always handled it all. Because she’s Lilith-fucking-Pierce.
And the forest knows that best of all.
Atmospheric, thrilling, and enthralling. For me, these are the three words that can best describe The Unfairfolk. This book is the first of a new series from Sara Wolf that will beguile readers from the first chapter until the very last.
My thoughts on The Unfairfolk
The Unfairfolk follows Lilith Pierce as she puts on her brave face and flies to a foreign a country to attend a prestigious boarding school, as her mother and her new husband enjoy a luxurious honeymoon around the world. In Institut Le Silvere, she meets Ciel Lautrec, an otherworldly person she can’t help but feel attracted to, and Alistair Strickland, a seemingly cruel lawkeeper she keeps running into. Unfortunately for Lilith, she also encounters other people, things, and creatures that she just can’t ignore. Like Von Arx who seemed to hate her the first time they meet, or Knight Durand, a building inside the school grounds that’s been on renovation for several years now, the man with fiery red eyes who seems to be stalking her, and more. What Lilith doesn’t know is that she’s about to uncover something else in this school, and it will all start with the forest.
The writing style is atmospheric in every way possible. The author never fails to make the reader feel so much of the character’s thoughts and emotions, or the surroundings or setting of a current scene, or the ominous threat that seems to loom over the characters. There were a number of times when I truly felt the eeriness of a scene being described in the book, as if I was watching a scene from a horror movie. It’s also impressive how the tone changes every time the point of view switches in every chapter. There’s the first person point of view from Lilith and a third person point of view that alternates between Ciel Luatrec and Alistair Strickland. In every chapter, the tone changes and it matches the characters and the setting so well that it just pulls you in the moment.
The characters are absolutely enthralling. They all have their own personalities and each of them offers a story to tell to the readers. Lilith Pierce is one hilarious (yet deeply scarred) main character. I love her humour and her frankness, but at the same time, there are moments that she was childish. And she knows this herself, she knows it’s her flaw. Alistair Strickland, on the other hand, is layered. I thought I already knew his character, but he kept surprising me as the story progressed. Last but not the least, Ciel Lautrec is one intriguing character. There’s something unnerving about him, whether it be his beauty or his personal (and obscure) ambitions. These characters have a lot more to show to the readers, and I’m excited to see them in the sequel.
I also love how the book touched on several social issues, and I hope the author will tackle more of them in the next books. Lilith and her mother, as well as other characters, are victims of abuse and went through traumatic events. Social class and power imbalance are also a primary theme in the book. We see how toxic and detached rich people can be. And we see how being a child of powerful and influential people means never experiencing normal things and always being too careful around the public. Sexuality is also talked about in the book, albeit in brief passing moments.
The plot is intriguing, mysterious, and thrilling in a way that you’re excited to know what happens next but also very afraid of what the next chapter will bring. I have to say though, at its entirety, the book seems like a prologue. A lot of events transpired in the book, yes, but the progress of the main conflict went slow. It wasn’t until the last 20% of the book that we truly got to know more of the sinister man that’s been following Lilith, or the magical yet strange things that roam around the Institut Le Silvere. As a result, the ending feels a lot like a cliffhanger. But at the same time, it also feels like a promise—a promise that there’s something more and that it’s just the beginning of the story.
Overall, this book is a great read, and the Valenbound series seems promising as ever. I can’t wait to read the next book and see what comes of Lilith’s journey!
Have you read this book already? Is it in your TBR? Tell me in the comments!
(This review was first published on The Nerd Daily.)