Mini reviews: Tithe, Dreaming in Hindi, Alif the Unseen


I picked Tithe as one of my reads for Once Upon a Time, knowing little more about it than that it’s part of Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series. I like the idea of modern faerie tales. And this one is indeed ‘modern’.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms – a struggle that could very well mean her death.

The writing is nothing to shout about, and the characters are not very likeable, but it is relatively readable as the plot moves decently enough and it’s aimed at a younger readership than I belong to. Plus I have to give credit to Black for creating characters that are less than typical – in terms of ethnicity (Kaye, for instance, is half-Japanese), personality type and background. And her faerie world is one that is different, dark and beguiling.


I read Tithe for Once Upon a Time VII (review site)

Holly Black’s Bibliography
Young Adult Novels
The Modern Faerie Tales
Tithe : A Modern Faerie Tale
Valiant : A Modern Tale of Faerie
Ironside : A Modern Faery’s Tale

The Curse Workers
White Cat
Red Glove
Black Heart

Standalone Novels
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Middle Grade Novels
The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Lucinda’s Secret
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Ironwood Tree
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wrath of Mulgarath
Arthur Spiderwick’s Notebook of Fantastical Observations
Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Care and Feeding of Sprites
The Nixie’s Song: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles
A Giant Problem: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles
The Wyrm King: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles

Magisterium Series (with Cassandra Clare)
The Iron Trial

Graphic Novels
The Good Neighbors
The Good Neighbors: Kin
The Good Neighbors: Kith
The Good Neighbors: Kind


Magazine editor Katherine Russell Rich loses her job (she’s also been diagnosed with cancer), takes a trip to India and falls in love with the place and language, and sets off for a year in Udaipur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, to learn Hindi.

She writes about her observations about life in Udaipur (she lives with an extended host family), a new culture and lifestyle (where everyone seems to know what she’s up to), her first-hand insights into learning a language as an adult (including plenty of research about Secondary Language Acquisition and all the behavioural and neurological studies that come with it – judging from Goodreads reviews, it might have been too much information for some readers, but it was mostly fine for me*). It was quite fascinating to read of how her acquisition of Hindi led to a deterioration in a sense of her English and Spanish:

“Hindi pollutes my English and vice versa. I construct clunky Hindi sentences using English syntax; total groaners, all wrong. The courtly politeness of Hindi filters into my English, ‘by your kindness’, ‘I am obliged to your honour’. It leeches my American personality, makes me feel I’ve gone pale. I never realized before the extent to which we reside in language. We are how we speak.”

* I learnt, for example, that using two languages every day can help stem dementia by several years. Unfortunately, while I was forced to learn Mandarin Chinese for ten years in Singapore, my main language is English, that is, if I wanted to use Mandarin, I have to think in English and translate it into my garbled Mandarin. I have been reading Chinese books to wee reader though, so there’s still hope!

Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language
The Red Devil : A Memoir About Beating The Odds


Alif the Unseen is quite an unforgettable read, although I’ve been reluctant to write about it. For how does one go about describing it? It’s a modern, cyber-fantasy I guess, with a young Arab-Indian hacker at the centre of it. There are djinns and an ancient book, firewalls and government censorship. It is such a strange, unique book, an adventure, a romance, a fantasy, all rolled into one. It was such great fun.

(JoV at Bibliojunkie has a far better, more detailed review – she also recommends Wilson’s memoir The Butterfly Mosque)

“Aces” (with co-author Shannon Eric Denton and art by Curtis Square-Briggs, in Negative Burn #7-10)
The Outsiders: “Five of a Kind – Metamorpho/Aquaman” (art by Josh Middleton; collected in Outsiders: Five of a Kind)
Cairo (with art by M.K. Perker, original graphic novel)
Air (with art by M.K. Perker, ongoing series, Vertigo)
Vixen: Return of the Lion (with Cafu, 5-issue mini-series)
The Butterfly Mosque 
Superman#706, 707 (with art by Amilcar Pinna; collected in “Superman: Grounded. Vol. 1”)
Mystic (with art by David Lopez, 4-issue miniseries, Marvel Comics)
Alif the Unseen


  1. Thanks for the mention. I learnt Mandarin for 12 years. It’s funny that people said it will be advantageous to speak Mandarin and in the end the Chinese learnt to speak English quicker than anyone could learn Mandarin. LOL… so Mandarin was not really in use at workplace. I don’t have any patience to learn a new language now.

    Glad you like Alif the Unseen.


  2. The premise of Tithe sounds like something you’d find in a Charles de Lint book, with the modern faeries and the fringes-of-society character. But unlikable characters…that usually kills a book for me.


Comments are closed.