As promised in yesterday’s post, I decided to write up a review for The Cruel Prince. It’s one of my most recent reads, and is still (fairly) fresh in my brain. I have a deep hesitancy starting books that are completely hyped and loved by hundreds, if not thousands, of readers. Black is an incredibly popular author, and while I read one of her books 12+ years ago I don’t remember much about it or whether or not I even liked it. So diving into TCP provided similar excitement of reading a debut author.
TRIGGER WARNING: Physical and verbal abuse; suicide (of a non-essential character)
Title: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: January 3, 2018
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 370 pages
Synopsis: (via 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 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.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal 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.“
Let me start off by saying I’ve seen fanart of this series on both book Twitter and #bookstagram, so I had a general idea of who the characters were, especially Jude and Prince Cardan. But I was very unaware of the stakes of this book, and how…fitting the title definitely is. I thought it was some sort of word play, but… Well. Yeah.
First off, Jude as a character confounded me. Multiple times (and even in the synopsis!) she states how she wants to be like the Fae because they are beautiful, immortal, and overall better than a human such as herself. But then her hatred for them blossoms into this dark, ugly thing, which is only perpetuated by what happens to her and her twin sister, Taryn, when they attend school. There, you meet Prince Cardan and his gang of equally cruel friends who essentially treat Jude and Taryn like trash because they are human. And wait, you want me to ship these two characters together? No, not buying it. And yet… There’s some hope in her, especially in her actions leading up to the events of the final few chapters.
Plotwise, I definitely enjoyed the court politics and political intrigue. There are a variety of twists and turns I never saw coming, and I enjoyed how it really forced Jude to work alongside some of the very Fae that despise her. Granted, Jude doesn’t do this without reason, and it turns out, she can be quite manipulative herself, especially if it lands her in a spot to prove herself to both her father and Fae who are mistreating her and Taryn.
The Fae are an incredibly large and intricate set of people in The Cruel Prince world, and I liked discovering the different types of Fae. I thought the world-building quite immersive and easy to understand, which is a big plus since mostly everything else just fell flat. I thought it was crazy how…affectionate Jude’s Fae family were to here, considering the circumstances in which she, Taryn, and her Fae sister came to live with them. Again, another confusing thing. That Jude wants to prove herself to these very people astounds me–maybe because I don’t know if I would do what she did. I think maybe I would be a bit like Taryn, and perhaps that’s what makes Jude story all the more interesting.
To go back to the trigger warnings in this book, I can’t count the number of times both Jude and Taryn were verbally abused by Prince Cardan and his friends. There’s also a very vivid scene in which Jude witnesses someone being physically abused by a family member. I’m not sure if this was made to create sympathy for this particular character. Unfortunately, I’m not particular endeared toward said character regardless so… Yeah. As for the suicide, it’s a very brief mention in the middle of the book or so, pertaining to a human Jude is trying to help. I feel like saying more would be spoiler-ish, but if you’re sensitive to that, just be warned. It came as a shocker to me.
I’m a bit bummed I didn’t like this book more. I bought a signed copy at a book festival earlier in the year, but it’s off to the side in the “donate/sell” pile.
You can purchase this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, or IndieBound. If you’re interested, Barnes and Noble has an exclusive edition of the sequel, The Wicked King, which is available next year.