I know now why Holly Black is called the Queen of Faerie. I’ve never read any of her work before (not even The Spiderwick Chronicles) and so this was a brand new experience for me.
Luckily, it was a very awesome brand new experience.
When she was seven years old, Jude’s parents were murdered and she and her sisters were taken away to live with their murderer Madoc in Faerie, away from the mortal world.
For years, Jude has yearned to be like the faeries, despite their cruel nature towards mortals, most of all, sixth-child Prince Cardan, the most beautiful and her worst tormenter.
To reach her goal and win a place at Court, Jude must defy him and face the consequences with it, becoming tangled in a web of palace intrigues and deceptions, learning her own capacity for bloodshed. Yet, the civil war looming upon them threatens both Jude’s plan and the life of her sisters, let alone the fate of Faerie itself.
I’m not a huge faerie reader–it’s just not something I find a lot of.
I’m wary of Sarah J. Maas so that’s one big faerie writer (I think?) that I’m not reading. And I don’t really know of any other faerie books unless you count children’s like Ruby the Red Fairy and all those weird 40 page children’s books. I think the last faerie book I’ve read was An Enchantment of Ravens, and before that I have no idea.
So it’s well established that I’m not well-versed in the intricacies of faerie-lore and all that jazzy stuff.
But damn, this book was good.
Unlike An Enchantment of Ravens where it was short and kind of shallow, this gets much (but not too much) darker and deeper and grislier, is the best way I can explain it.
There’s murder and spying and bombs and bloodshed and it’s that delicious type of YA that makes you question after if you’re in the right state of mind for tolerating murder.
It was just so good! Like I said before, I know now why Holly Black is called the Queen of Faerie–because she is. She just is.
Jude is an awesome main character as she undergoes this shift in character that’s super subtle, but actually a huge shift. She starts off like her sister Taryn, meek to faeries, but more ambitious than her sister. And then when the torment from Prince Cardan gets worse, she experiences the first shift–refusing to back down.
But after that, it’s much more subtle as she transitions from rebellious to wily and sly and devious, willing to kill and shed blood to get what she wants.
It’s that subtle kind of character development that makes you do a double take after reading.
I love the world Jude lives in–although I wished there was more description of Faerie, I wasn’t crying too hard over the loss because the action and adventure and machinations of Jude made up for it all. But the basics of Faerie were well established to even newcomers like myself, teaching the reader on how mortals survive in a magical world like that.
The world goes hand in hand with that dark, magical atmosphere that intertwines with the plot and feeds off of the murder and mystery in the story.
Jude, during the subtle character shift, embarks to discover the reality of what will happen with the throne once the King of Faerie abdicates soon due to his old age (and cajoling from his sons). It starts off as a curiosity-spurred mystery but Jude eventually lands very deep into the plot and begins to want more and more than just mere information.
The plot’s developing darkness worked very well with Jude’s own personal developing darkness.
I think the plot was well paced and I finished this book in one afternoon, hastily flipping page after page and discovering Jude’s brilliant, yet questionably-motivated, plan.
The plot twists were also well done, and although they weren’t super surprising or anything, I think the turns the novel took were smart and prepared it for the next novel in the trilogy very well.
I did think that the diversity could have been a little more, you know? I kept an eye out, and I believe there are exactly two brown people mentioned: one, the elf(?) called Bomb with white hair and brown skin, and two, the mortal girlfriend of Jude’s sister.
Now maybe I missed something, but I think there could have been a lot more racial diversity, especially with that lovely thing called a fantasy world, meaning you can put whatever POC you want in it (and likewise, leave whoever you want out)!
I also wasn’t too much of a fan of the romance. I liked the romance as a plot device (when Jude was involved with her savior-prince), but at the end she has a thing with Cardan, which I didn’t really advocate.
Cardan mentions something along the lines of “I hated you because I desire you” but that’s a terrible reason for this. Kids, this isn’t elementary school anymore and being mean to a girl isn’t the way to get her to like you.
And Jude kind of goes along with him without a long forgiveness-and-proving-yourself period and that’s what I wasn’t a fan of because girls loving their bullies is honestly a terrible cliché.
I totally would have bumped my rating down from this, if it wasn’t for the fact that this romance probably isn’t going to go anywhere with Cardan acting hateful.
Overall, I really loved this story as it is so atmospheric and rich and magical and I cannot wait for the next two novels in the series. I would totally recommend to lovers of fantasies, stories where it’s a girl who’s turning to the dark side, like Adelina from The Young Elites, or darker atmospheric novels like Wintersong.
You can preorder The Cruel Prince now or buy it in stores January 2nd (next Tuesday!) from any major bookseller.
Thank you to my local library and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a (uncatalogued) review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Are you excited for The Cruel Prince? Have you read any of Holly Black’s works?