The Modern Tales of Faerie is an Urban Fantasy trilogy by Holly Black, including the books Tithe, Valiant and Ironside.Tithe begins with Kaye Fierch returning to her childhood home of New Jersey after her rocker mother's boyfriend attempts to stab her mother after a gig. Once home, Kaye tries to reconnect with some of her old childhood friends—including some of her "imaginary" ones, a trio of faeries. While she's no stranger to the Fair Folk, she stumbles into the dangerous faerie courts when she meets a completely different faerie, Roiben, a knight from the Unseelie Court.Valiant introduces a new protagonist: the Tomboy runaway Valerie Russell. She runs to New York and gets caught up with teen vagrants Lolli, Dave, and Luis. Her new friends are hardly normal, and are in fact couriers to a fae named Ravus, a troll that literally lives under a bridge and who makes a special drug for the exiled fae that eases the iron sickness.Ironside is a sequel to Tithe, and returns to Kaye as the protagonist. Roiben is soon to be crowned King of the Unseelie Court. Kaye drunkenly swears her love to Roiben during his coronation, and is consequently forbidden from seeing him until she finds the impossible: a faerie who can tell a lie. At the same time, guilt from being a changeling causes her to expose the truth to her mother and find her mother's true child, somewhere in the Seelie Courts. While there, she gets caught up in the Summer Queen's plans to take over the Unseelie Court, and must find a way to save both herself and Roiben.
Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Kaye gets a little too drunk on faerie wine in Ironside and swears her fealty to Roiben—although she knows from the first book that doing this in the faerie courts is absolutely dangerous.
All Trolls Are Different: Trolls are slightly larger and much uglier than most faeries, with greenish skin, protruding teeth, and black-and-gold eyes. They turn to stone in sunlight, but will recover when no longer exposed. Troll blood breeds true even when mixed with human. Ravus, the one major character who's a troll, is a little intimidating but a genuinely good guy, although it's indicated in other books that this isn't true of all trolls.
All Women Are Prudes: Refreshingly averted. Kaye is immediately sexually attracted to Roiben, and Val and Lolli's sexual frustration is an important plot point in Valiant.
Blue and Orange Morality: Roiben points out that classifying the Seelie and Unseelie Courts as good and evil respectively is an oversimplification. Both courts have very little regard for the wellbeing of mortals, and it seems the Seelie court's opposition to killing is less a moral concern than an aesthetic one.
Big Applesauce: The books take place in New York and New Jersey, usually commuting between the two during the novels. New York is also known as Ironside, where the exiled fae are sent.
Big Brother Instinct: Luis. He does absolutely everything for his brother, and tries his best to take care of him.
Break His Heart to Save Him: In Ironside, Roiben gives Kaye an impossible task—to find a faerie who can lie—in order to keep her from becoming his consort, and by extension, a subject of the Unseelie Court.
Also, Kaye, to some degree, and Ethine, after Ironside.
The Cameo: Roiben appears briefly in Valiant, acting in his position as Unseelie King.
Val and Ruth also appear briefly at the end of Ironsidefor Dave's funeral.
Can Not Tell A Lie: Faeries can only "bend the truth until it snaps under its own weight." i.e, they can't lie per se, but are very, very fond of leaving out important information or "little details" that could be willfully damaging to the hearer. This becomes a plot point in Ironside when Kaye is required to find a faerie that can tell an untruth for Roiben's quest. 'Cause she's a wily girl, she uses a quibble to solve the riddle.
Changeling Fantasy: Kaye. While barely brushed on in the first book, it stirs up a lot of angst in Ironside.
Dark and Troubled Past: Oh, Ravus, where do we start with you? First, your mom and siblings beat you repeatedly as a child to get you to fight, then when your dad saw you all as trolls he took off, prompting your mother to disown you, then you accidentally ran your first and best friend through with a sword, then you got exiled to New York/Ironside, and now you're accused for poisoning fey with your medicine. BOY, it must be great to be you!
Also, Luis and Dave. Their father killed their mother, shot Dave in the chest, then committed suicide. They now live on the street running errands for the fey.
We don't even know that much about Roiben's past, but from the time he sets foot in the Unseelie Court, there seems to be no end of darkness and troubles.
Dark Is Not Evil: Played somewhat straight with Roiben and later Kaye and Ravus who end up as part of the Unseelie Court, but are usually good and moral characters. The Unseelie Court as a WHOLE is pretty messed up, though.
Deadpan Snarker: Though usually The Stoic, Roiben gets several snarky moments. Kaye says that she "liked him more before he had a sense of humour".
Deathseeker: Luis falls temporarily into this when his brother dies. He tries to kill himself using Corny's withering curse—but the curse is broken the instant he brings Corny's hands to his face, since his tears act as running salt water.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Inverted example with Val after she shaves her head in Valiant. Even lampshaded where it is pointed out that in her reflection, it is now a young delicate boy looking back at her.
Ravus and Val both received some courtesy of Mabry near the end of Valiant.
Idiot Ball: In Tithe. Sure, Kaye, eating and drinking at an eerie feast in the Unseelie Court is a brilliant and tasty idea! Justified, as it is a classic fairy tale motif that faerie food is irresistibly appealing. Still, Kaye is usually much more Genre Savvy than that.
Kinky Cuffs: In Ironside, Kaye buys a pair at a fetish store, and later uses them on Ethine.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: The blurb of Ironside doesn't try to hide that Roiben becomes Unseelie King and that Kaye is a faerie.
Light Is Not Good: The faeries of the Seelie court are almost as dangerous as those of the Unseelie.
Literal Ass Kissing: Used as a joke, a CMOA and as a source of horror in Tithe: after finding out Rath Roiben Rye's True Name, the main character sarcastically tells him to kiss her ass, and doesn't realize he's magically compelled to obey.
"That is the nature of servitude, Kaye. It is literal minded and not at all clever. Be more careful with your epithets."
Literal Genie: How the Literal Ass Kissing incident occurs. Another example is when the big bad gets Rath Roiben Rye's true name and orders him to grab the escaping heroine. Roiben promptly grabs her hair... and then lets her go again, snarking, "You may be well versed in following orders, but you are a novice at giving them."
It's established in the earlier Literal Ass Kissing scene that invoking a faerie's true name always works like this — they're compelled to do no more and no less than the Exact Words of the order, and an ill-considered or poorly-worded command rarely results in what the person invoking the name actually desires.
OOC Is Serious Business: Subverted. When Luis starts acting weird, it's barely remarked upon since there are other, more serious things going on. Turns out it's not Luis; it's Dave, using Never to glamour himself into looking like his brother.
Taken for Granite: How Val saves Ravus. He can only survive about an hour with his heart cut out, so Val rips open the curtains and exposes him to sunlight, freezing him 'til nightfall to give her some extra time to save him.
"I'm not very good at explaining things," she said. "But I think you have beautiful eyes. I love the gold in them. I love that they're different from my eyes- I see mine all the time and I'm bored with them."