The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Book One of the Folk of the Air series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
What I Liked:
I'm going to be 100% honest: I have never cared for books dealing with the fae. Faeries are tricksy, deceitful, manipulative fictional creatures, and I've never really liked stories that involved them because of their nature. The stories never really go well, because the fae are cruel, and I really hate seeing humans be humiliated and hurt by the fae. I've read a few books with fae and didn't love them, there were are two in particular that come to mind, that I DID enjoy. One: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. The primary faerie in that book was not nearly as cruel and deceitful as the fae can be, and I adored him for that. The other book? The Darkest Part of the Forest by none other than Holly Black. I LOVED that book. And it is because I loved that book that I figured I would give this new book a chance. I am so glad that I did, because The Cruel Prince was as riveting and as entrancing as it has been promised to be.
Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and her older sister Vivi were taken to the High Court of Faerie when she was seven years old. Her older sister Vivi is half-fae, with a redcap father, Madoc. Madoc stole them away from the human world because Vivi is his daughter, but Jude and Taryn are his responsibility, even though they are not his relation (and not even fae). Ten years later, Jude wants to earn her place on the fae court. She wants to be knighted, but there are fae that do not want her in court. There are fae that do not want her and Taryn to be in the fae's world. Fae like Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. But Jude will stop at nothing to prove him - and the rest of the fae - wrong. She strikes a bargain with a sly and powerful faerie and quickly becomes involved in a political scheme that will shake the fae world - and maybe the human world too.
I had seen a few reviews of this book and some of them mentioned that the first half or three-quarters of the book were somewhat slow. I can definitely see what these people are saying, though I didn't have the same experience. The first half/three-quarters of the book have that slow-burn quality that sets the scene, lulls you into the fae world, and lets the anger and rage simmer under the surface. Everything comes to a halt for one second around the three-quarters mark, and then things explode. Like that scene in the new Star Wars movie when there is complete silence but also things are being destroyed. I liked the first three-quarters of the book, in terms of pacing. I was never bored or wondering what was taking so long for things to happen - instead, I was intrigued, and curious, and slowly getting more and more mad for Jude.
From the start, I liked Jude. She fights for her family from the very first chapter (the prologue, really), and she never stops doing so. She is always trying to protect her sisters, and she even protects those that torment her (like Prince Cardan, a fae queen's daughter named Nicosia, a cruel fae boy named Valerian, etc.). She wants to be stronger, tougher, smarter than the fae, because she doesn't like being vulnerable, and she wants to protect herself and Taryn. Growing up human in a fae world has never been easy for the twins, but especially for Jude, who doesn't simper and try to please, like Taryn does. Taryn has her strengths, but Jude is the one that shines. She is clever and strong and becomes more so as the story goes on. She makes impulsive decisions and creates messes for herself, but she learns, and she bides her time after every mistake.
This book is told in Jude's first-person narrative, and so the focus is entirely on her and her decisions. However, there are a number of secondary characters worth mentioning. I had a love-hate relationship with Jude's twin Taryn, who seemed like the sweet older twin but really I didn't have the best feeling about her. Vivienne is hilarious - she is Madoc's true daughter (Jude and Taryn aren't) and she defies his will at every turn. She hates him and hates living in the fae world, and would rather be living in the human world. Vivi is a great older sister, and Jude can always count on her.
I liked and disliked Madoc. It's clear that he loves all three girls, but he is a redcap and a war-driven one, at that. He is the General of the High King's army, so he lives for war and chaos. I guess he's a good dad though? I didn't care for Oriana, Madoc's second wife. She's kind of just there, though I start to like her when she becomes more involved in the story around that 75% mark.
Prince Cardan seems like the biggest villain, when the story begins. He seems cruel and despicable, always condoning the cruelty of his friends towards Jude. He never misses a chance to humiliate her. But why? Besides she is human? Cardan is such a complex faerie. There are more layers to him than one would think, and it becomes clear that his cruelty is on the surface. Few authors can make me like an antihero who is cruel to the protagonist. However, Holly Black turns Cardan's character around somehow. I don't know how she did it. But somehow, I started liking this antihero.
The first three-quarters of the story deal with Jude's struggle to fit into the fae world and avoid the cruelty of Cardan's posse - Nicosia, Valerian, and one named Locke, who isn't as bad as he seems. There is rage and unbalance bubbling up in Jude, and she eventually she decides she has had enough. This is when she strikes a deal with a dangerous faerie, and she begins to spy on the royal family for him. It is then that she realizes that there is quite a coup in the works. But who is behind this power struggle, and who will come out with the crown?
The last quarter of the book is bloodshed upon bloodshed. That's all you need to know. Also, a lot of deception. It really gets good (and bad) in the last quarter of the book, right down to the last page. Ah! I don't know what I'm supposed to think, after the last few chapters! I thought I had it all figured out!
I won't say much about the romance because it's... kind of there? Not really? The ending gives me pause. I didn't care for any aspect of the romance but there was a certain part that I was definitely like nope, that shouldn't be happening. But there was another aspect that had me wanting to start shipping, up until the last few pages? Now I'm confused? I'm curious to see how Black will work this angle, in the next book.
I need the next book now! Here's hoping it'll be a January 2019 publication, or sooner, because I have a serious need.
What I Did Not Like:
I don't really know if I have anything to complain about. Maybe more swoon? I feel like I wanted to see more from the hate-to-love chemistry -- that could have made for some seriously passionate swoonage. I'll stay quiet though. Here's hoping book two will have more!
Would I Recommend It:
I do not usually like fae books, but this book was great. Very tricksy and full of deception, but in a bizarre and interesting way. Our heroine does not get fooled easily, which was refreshing to see. And the fae keep their hands to themselves, for the most part (again, she isn't easily fooled). If you're interested, I'd say go for it. I am not a fan of the fae but I liked the book.
4 stars. I am 100% hooked and in desperate need of more! I kind of want to reread The Darkest Part of the Forest now. Did I mention that there is a Severin/Ben cameo in this book? I love it when books have cameos and crossovers. Anyway, join me in the long wait for book two!
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