The Wicked King by Holly Black (ARC): A Bloodthirsty Sequel to a Compelling Fantasy Series (Spoiler-Free)

4 stars

Holly Black’s The Folk of Air series follows Jude Duarte and the palace intrigues and deceptions in Faerie. Full of lies, trickery, and dangerous alliances, this is a bloodthirsty and enchanting series that sucks you in and doesn’t spit you back out.

This review is spoiler-free for the whole series.

🌸 Probably should be 15+ (violence! sex!) and none of the people act like teens imo, but also this series is very popular so take it as you will.

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Wow. This book totally made a splash.

But first, I feel the need to provide some background on my relationship with this series.

Way back in 2017 I grabbed an ARC of The Cruel Prince from my library of all places, sat down in my mother’s rocking chair, and read the whole thing, cover to cover, in 2.5 hours.

I LOVED it. I was totally with the hype and had the most amazing time reading and was just sucked into the story. Five out of five stars. Fast forward more than a year later (a year filled with Incorrect The Cruel Prince tweets), I am here now with my four out of five star review.

Because although I was equally excited for The Wicked King, it was definitely a good read, but it wasn’t, in my opinion, as good as The Cruel Prince. And I’m not a “sequels are never as good as first books” person.

Where The Wicked King made a splash, The Cruel Prince had made a tsunami. And let’s dissect why.


“Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder.”

“We would be surprised to find that.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

The build-up was less intense.

Let me be frank here. I was not hooked on The Wicked King until I got to around page 140. Although I was having a pretty darn good time reading, I just felt like I was missing something crucial.

Five months passed between the end of The Cruel Prince and the beginning of The Wicked King, and I definitely think this placement–although it does create urgency I cannot elaborate on due to spoilers–slowed down the reader and made them take in what was happening more than rushing through the novel.

It’s like The Wicked King sort of flat-lined for the first half, and then it started rising. And it’s not bad, it’s just different. Similarly, even though the intensity wasn’t at its full for the first half, Holly Black was still doing a lot of things behind the scenes.

And I mean a lot of things. If you’re into political machinations and you found The Cruel Prince to not have as much intrigue as you wanted, well, still consider picking this book up. Because Black really does bring the politics in (land vs. sea! sounds like dinner!).

In my opinion, the machinations + flatline sort of dulled what should have been AHHHHHHHH spicy scenes, but maybe the chemistry was just not up to par from what Incorrect The Cruel Prince has been tweeting for the past year.

“This is an absolutely terrible idea.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

The plot meandered.

This sort of piggybacks off of the last point, but I felt like even though things were ~happening~, I couldn’t really tell that they were happening until AFTER I read the book.

While I was reading, it almost felt like it meandered a little and Jude was just running around very very stressed (which is honestly a big mood, but still).

And I love seeing characters run around like a chicken with its head cut off as much as the next person, but I did feel like the stakes weren’t emphasized enough. Yes, there’s a deadline. But a lot of it is working about things not immediately relevant to the deadline, and so I was a little confused/less interested because of it. (But oh, was it worth it at the end!)

All of this doesn’t mean that The Wicked King was a horrible read. By no means is this true.

“I was only giving him what he wanted. After all, if he didn’t want to be eviscerated, he would have honored my very reasonable request.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

New stakes! New drama!

Although I was literally just complaining about the stakes being different, different doesn’t necessarily mean bad for some people, and I think these stakes will vary in how intense they are from reader to reader.

It’s like a deadline pressing on you from afar, and if you’re a procrastinator lie me, it might not seem as pressing or horrible (even when you have no plan) than to someone who likes things done in a timely manner.

Plus, the drama with the Undersea was a really nice touch, and I liked seeing how Black introduced this new element (a new problem/isseu that I hope Black continues to show more of in the next novel!)

“Power is infectious. Power is greedy.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

Also, WHAT WAS THAT ENDING?!

Umm, yeah.

Someone please hold me because that ending was [1000 screams in a chorus].

I just–wow, okay. So you did that. You really did that.

No spoilers, but the ending made the whole book worth it. I would have read just the first 150 words 5 times over to get to that ending oh my gosh.

Holly Black definitely did not dispapoint on that aspect, let me tell you that.

“I thought you might be finally reconsidering some of the choices you made.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

We are definitely getting places…

I think this book does its job really well in the way that it’s setting the story up for book 3.

Yes, it does have its own plotline, but I also think what The Wicked King does best is lead us to the finale of the series and sets everything in place for Holly Black to wow us with one last hurrah.

Looking at this book with the whole series as perspective, it really does its job well. You can see some of the intricate movements Black is planning settle into place with this book (and with that ending), and I think Black did a really fantastic job of wrapping it up without really wrapping the whole series up.

So yes. For a book 2, it does its book 2 job well.

“I will fix things,” I vow. “I will find a way to fix things.”

The Wicked King – Holly Black

I think that because I’ve romanticized The Cruel Prince so much in my head and that I wasn’t as far on the hype train this year as I was last were defintiely big factors in my personal enjoyment of this book. (I still enjoyed reading, though).

Besides this, I think there were a lot of complex reasons why I didn’t enjoy The Wicked King as much as The Cruel Prince, but I do think it’s good to note that just structurally, I don’t think it was as stellar as the first book.

Does this mean you shouldn’t read this after reading The Cruel Prince? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Please read this. I still recommend reading it. I am ALL HERE for whatever book 3 brings our way [insert long string of eye emojis].

I, despite my elaborate examination of The Wicked King‘s faults, still really enjoyed reading and going back to this magical world. The characters are stronger, the set up is getting more elaborate, and I am both scared and excited for what Holly Black has in store for us next year.

Thank you so much to The NOVL for sending me an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!

Have you read The Cruel Prince? What did you think?

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17 thoughts on “The Wicked King by Holly Black (ARC): A Bloodthirsty Sequel to a Compelling Fantasy Series (Spoiler-Free)

    1. BE SCARED. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT

      even though the ending makes me scream (again) I still would rather read it now than wait for later, so all is well!

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  1. I’m so excited for this! I’m this sort of reader who loves political intrigue (for example I love the Queen’s Thief novels despite their slow buildup because I know all the machinations working behind the scenes and because I know that it’s going to blow up at some point). So maybe I might like The Wicked King as much as The Cruel Prince.

    And every review I read talks about THE END and now…I’m trying to decide whether to wait for the third book to come out and then binge all or just read The Wicked King when it comes out. What should I do? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg yes! I hope you do end up enjoying TWK!!!

      and THE END is [screams]. but you should definitely read it now, not later because it is still worth it to live in [screams] for another year (also, you might end up missing on some of the hype and you increase the chances of getting spoiled). and the alternative is continuing to live in The Cruel Prince [screams] for a year, so really, it’s not much of a better option ahahah

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m DYING to read this book. Just a few more days. I’m going to be honest, I couldn’t read this whole review without freaking out and I’m at work and need to remain composed. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG YES. TWO DAYS. and omg the quotes!!! did you like the quotes–I picked them out just so people could freak out a little ahaaahahah

      Like

    1. I defintiely get that–the year long wait is going to be *sobs*

      but oooooh I hope you love it! imo it is definitely worth it to read now vs. later so you don’t end up spoiled, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I gave TCP 3/5 stars due to some physical and verbal violence issues I had with it… Personally, I didn’t think it lived up to the hype, but I have a friend who felt the same way but LOVED TWK so… now I’m debating about whether or not I want to read it. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah–honestly do what feels good. the hype didn’t hold me through this book completely, so the fact that I gave it 4 stars without the hype might mean it’s pretty good? honestly, i’d just leave it up to your mood (but good that your friend liked it!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved The Wicked King, even though it wasn’t as instantly grabbing as The Cruel Prince.. I think maybe because the setting was just more familiar? from the start of Curel Prince you’re just thrown in and everything’s new and you can’t resist wanting to find out what there is. I mean, that could have happened with the Undersea, but sadly, it just didn’t.
    But I did really like the story, because of all the plot twists!!! And yeah, romanticizing Cardan and Jude is just weird for me. Like, for most of the story he’s kind of a borderline abuser? I mean, Locke’s worse and needs his guts stabbed out.
    I did scream at the end, because Cardan made me SO MAD!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that!!! I think being familiar with the setting can kind of take the magic away–and I kinda wanted the undersea to be developed more in book 1

      and yeah–cardan and jude’s relationship is not one of my screamy moments (he is pretty ehh) but I think they’re very cool independently!!! locke is so horrible though

      AND YES THAT ENDING I SCREAM SO HARD

      Like

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