Title: The Cruel Prince
Series Details: The Folk of the Air #1
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Imprint: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 02, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Blurb from Goodreads:
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 a delightfully dark, cunning, utterly addictive, anti-hero story. I’m a shameless lover of villains, especially the devious plotters, the masters of deception, the ambitious, the distrustful, and the cruel. Holly Black has got them all in this book. On top of that, there’s the dangerous court politics, surreptitious relationships, kick-ass spies, familial intrigues, a good amount of morally questionable characters, and a romance sprouting in the slowest yet anticipatable manner. While some of these sounds like familiar tropes, Black had expertly played with those and she successfully made something quite refreshing out of it.
“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,” Taryn says. “Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”
Each character is flawed, their world flawlessly painted, and the plot is as thick as my favorite lomi soup. The worldbuilding is so detailed that it didn’t feel like it was just a figment of Black’s wonderful imagination. The Faerieland felt strangely believable in her writing. You’d think it really does exist somewhere, behind the mist in the middle of the woods. It’s a world where nothing is ever easy or simple. Not even for humans raised under a fey general’s protection—the fruits are deadly and even dancing can kill you—or for fey royalties themselves. Black has perfectly captured the darkness expected of a fae world and she masterfully painted it alongside its beauty.
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
The characters are a delicious bunch of assholes. I was rooting for protagonists and antagonists alike—although that might be because it isn’t easy to tell who’s who. They’re all well fleshed-out down to its sub-characters. Some are good with just a tiny bit of bad in their bones. Most are evil—either openly or secretly—but have damn good reasons behind their evilness. Each have their own hidden personal agendas. Questions about their loyalty and morality are abundant as weeds. And most of them are holding secrets, even to the readers, which proves to be one of the book’s most compelling factors.
The odd thing about ambition is this: You can acquire it like a fever, but it is not so easy to shed.
Jude isn’t the bravest and strongest main character I’ve come across in YA Fantasy. But she felt real and so she’s, by far, the most relatable. In a world that breathes magic, she remains human. She has no special powers or any otherworldly skills. She’s just this plain mortal girl whisked away to Fairie by her parents’ murderer and is trying to fit-in in a world that is not her own since then.
What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong?
Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.
Jude’s growth is truly an admirable thing. I love her whole being—obviously weak, completely vulnerable, just a few steps away from being helpless, and so very afraid. But she fights anyway. It was satisfying seeing her gradually transform from someone scared to even lift an eyebrow against feys to someone capable of manipulating a king! Jude is also not the cleverest main character I’ve read about but she’s definitely getting there. I think we have a vicious manipulator in the making.
I do not desire to do as well in the tournament as one of the fey. I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal. In my heart, I yearn to best them.
Cardan is… a prince. And he is cruel, this bastard. He is hard to love despite his beautiful hair and perfect cheeckbones. But try as I might, I couldn’t hate him. Not when the book title has got the two words that perfectly describes him. It makes you think that maybe there’s more to this arsehole, that maybe this is all just a façade, that maybe there’s a mountain of reasons behind his cruelty. Cardan’s character is very complex that I suspect he himself wouldn’t know where to go when the the good and the evil are asked to fall in separate lines.
This book is made even more delicious by Black’s carefully laid out plot twists. Characters making unpredictable decisions. Conspiracies unfolding in startling manner. Unexpected powerflips. The book closes with the taste of betrayal in the air and a hint of regret dancing around it. There’s a smell of danger just waiting to happen. And a promise of more complications in the coming installments. Black has laid out a strong and perfect foundation for a series within the pages of this book. She had tied things nicely leaving just the right amount of questions to spark curiousity and make the wait for the second installment a torture.
“That’s what comes of hungering for something: You forget to check if it’s rotten before you gobble it down.”
I haven’t read anything from Holly Black before. This book has made me an instant fan though. And hearing how great her previous works were, I’m definitely going to check them all out the next time I’m in a mood for another fey read.
If you’re planning to add a book about fae in your TBR, make it this book. It’s rather slow on the romance but if you’re into blood-thirsty villains and power-hungry heroes playing a dangerous scheming game, this is for you.