Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 384 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Overview: At the ripe age of seven, Jude and her two sisters were stolen away to Faerie after their parents are brutally murdered. Flash forward ten years, when Jude tries desperately to belong there, despite the fact that she will never live forever as the Faerie Folk do. Many of the Fey harbor pure hatred of humans, but none loathe them more than Prince Cardan, the wickedest son of the High Court King. And it’s him she must defy to win her place at court, even if it means shedding blood, dabbing in palace intrigues, or bathing in the violence of Faerie Court.
My assessment of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black can be summed up in two lines: F*cking loved it. I ate it up like it was Faerie fruit and despaired there wasn’t more.
What I loved:
There are two ways to fit into Faerie Court: To marry in or to demonstrate enough skill to one of the sons or daughters of High Court King. Firstly, I enjoyed how everyone loathed , but craved to be included in the Court. Everyone wanted to be in the closest circle to the King and in their own way, sought acceptance through one of the two ways mentioned.
Secondly, the main character Jude is one of the best female protagonists I’ve encountered. She wants to remain in Faerie and to be part of the society, despite the fact that Fey hate humans.
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
― Holly Black,
She doesn’t back down, even when if it might kill her or harm her, and she makes massive sacrifices for her sister. Jude is kind and ruthless, ornery, but bends for those she loves. When faced with the malicious Prince Cardan, she’s unyielding to his expectations that she’ll crumble under his cruelty and though her twin sister, Taryn, begs her to submit to the Faerie Court, Jude holds fast to her beliefs.
Probably my favorite aspect of her character is her ability to see all sides of a situation. Her “father”, Madoc, is a Faerie General who gets his kicks murdering others and yet, his kindness to her and willingness to teach her how to defend herself speaks to that part of her that love him as a father, which ultimately blinds her to his vicious nature. There is an affection between them, despite the fact that he murdered her real parents. I wholeheartedly understand that this might turn off some readers, but it added a dynamic of conflict in their bond that resonated with me.
“I love my parents’ murderer; I suppose I could love anyone.”
― Holly Black,
Because Jude is so fierce and stubborn, Taryn is portrayed as exactly the opposite. She doesn’t want to teach the Faeries Court a lesson, antagonized Prince Cardan, or defy the Fey in any way. She thoroughly believes if she puts her head down, things would boil over. Out of the two, I liked Jude better. She might have been a hot head, but when things didn’t boil over, she didn’t lay down like a dog.
But when Taryn played doormat, Jude was understanding and forgiving, which made me like her even more. There’s mention that Cardan and Jude are love interests, but this plot is so secondary that nothing really happens until the last few chapters. The two are so focused on their loathing of each other and the only hint you really get are two moments: 1) When Jude finds a water-stained page with her name all over it 2) When Cardan watches her through his lashes at a party.
Oh course, when Jude begins dating a certain someone (not going to name names), Cardan does appear jealous at first, but this is so fleeting and quickly evaporates to apathy, that it’s difficult to say it existed at all. BUT, I loved that Jude, though she admitted she found Cardan beautiful, didn’t drool over him. She didn’t pine after him. She doesn’t give him an inch, which is what I love about her character. I also learned quite a bit about Cardan through her observations, and it makes me feel bad for him, even if I didn’t want to. And this kind of observation happens with all characters, even those she despises.
Jude and Cardan so stubborn, they don’t see whatever feelings they have coming and neither did I, which was a nice little twist.
“He looks like a faerie lover stepped out of a ballad, the kind where no good comes to the girl who runs away with him.”
― Holly Black,
Thirdly, the world-building was superb. Everything from the types of poisonous herbs that commonly exist in Faerie, the cuisine, the attire, the rules – the world itself set the tone for the violent nature of the Faeries, who were more sophisticated beasts that creatures resembling humans with pointy ears. There are wild country sides teeming with poisonous beauties, sparkling streams with creatures that will drown you, a hierarchy among the Fey that is unforgiving and beautiful. There is light and darkness everywhere, often entangled and I couldn’t figure out if I loved or hated it. Perhaps, like Jude, it was a mix of both.
“There is a pleasure in being with them. Taking what we wish, indulging in every terrible thought. There’s safety in being awful.”
― Holly Black,
It’s crazy to me that Jude wants to live there, but when you consider it’s the only home she’s known, it makes sense. When you consider the moments of kindness Madoc affords them, it’s hard to strictly paint him one of the villain – and that’s the craziest part about this book that I loved. Even the worst Faeries had streaks of good in them that I couldn’t completely deny, which made me conflicted.
And I’ve lost count of all the ways I loved this book, but trust me, I could not put it down.
What I wasn’t crazy about:
I suppose the only true complaint I have was that the book ended. Surely in Faerie, everything lasts forever…..so why didn’t the book? Seriously, though, I don’t have any complaints.
The Cruel Prince: The Folk of Air revisits the true nature of Fey – beautiful violent darlings that cannot lie, but find ways to entangle others with their words. There is betrayal, murder, delicious tricks and pranks done awry, the allure of such elegant figures as poisonous as a snake, and a cut-throat world of danger occasionally blurred with streaks of very human emotions that infect even the Fey. The ending itself is brutal and violent, which left me shell-shocked, but still, I couldn’t put it down.
This is the BEST YA Fantasy I’ve read in 2018 so far, making Holly Black one of my new favorite authors. Addictive, complex, and oh-so deliciously dangerous, The Cruel Prince is worth it.