“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.”
I am just gonna dive right in here with a quick review of Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, the first novel in her Folk of Air series. I loved this book! 🤗 I went in not knowing anything about it, but I was a previous Holly Black fan (Seriously, why haven’t more people read Tithe? It is so good!), and I was very pleasantly surprised by how great it was. Definitely a 4.5 star book for me!
The thing I loved the most about The Cruel Prince, was how gosh dang refreshing the narrative was. The main character Jude Duarte is fierce. Like hella fierce. She is not a wholly good character. In fact, no one in this book is purely good or evil. Everyone is morally grey and I loved that! It is real, it is authentic, it is visceral, and very high stakes. No one was a cookie cutter character or a Mary Sue at all.
This is even more fabulous, because the book takes place in a faerie realm, where the fae are not sweet and mystical, but resemble how they are written in old folklore. They are viscous and ruthless. They are tricksy and selfish, only adhering to their own rules. They see humans as inferior playthings, basically, and toy with their lives for their own amusement. Nothing is black and white here, and Jude has to be cunning to survive. There is such an interesting power dynamic between Jude, a human living in faerie, and the fae themselves. She is constantly at risk among them, simply for being a weaker species. And she knows this. Bonds are much more complex, especially between her, her sisters, their surrogate father (who in fact killed their real parents), etc. The interactions and feelings between Jude and Madoc, and Jude and Taryn, were particularly fascinating to me. Everyone has their own motivations in this story, and their own ways of achieving their goals, no matter who stands in their way. It is quite an interesting study of different character traits and I could not get enough of it.
And of course, the main relationship that stands out with its complexity and crackling energy is between Jude and the faerie prince Cardan. They are truly enemies at the start of this book, full of genuine loathing for each other. And, although there is some unresolved sexual tension between them, this is not some cutesy story about ‘fake banter that is really flirting which then becomes love.’ No, these two hate each other. They are forced into a tentative truce to achieve a common goal, but they are violent, cruel, and traitorous toward each other. I am in love with them 😍. I cannot wait to see more of them and how the repercussions from the book’s ending will affect them.
The writing here is also gorgeous. I love the way that Black paints such a clear image for the reader. Since Tithe, I have really appreciated her ability to weave such a magical realm, one right out of old-world legend, that is also parallel to a modern human city. The juxtaposition between the settings is both jarring and fitting. Every sense is stimulated with her lush prose and her characterization is spot on. Witnessing everything through Jude’s eyes is great, because we can see her descent from helpless, but determined, human into ruthless Kingmaker. She is such a strong character. Her ambiguous morality sets her apart from many Young Adult heroines, making her that much more compelling and refreshing to read about. I was glad that she took charge and became selfish, cruel, and deceiving. It fit her character arc and seemed authentic to her personality, so that it never felt tacked on for drama or “badass points.”
This book has everything that I love in a fantasy novel. It has magic and intrigue. A fantastic setting. Great dialogue. Witty banter between enemies. Murder! Suspense! Wickedness! The only thing that left me feeling down about this book was the fact that I, like many others I have heard, picked it up and flew threw it (it probably took me a day and a half to read), without realizing that the sequel does not come out until January 2019. Ugh! 😫 It was awful. I finished and immediately went to order The Wicked King, but alas I was out of luck. So, fair warning! The ending will make you want to get your hands on the next book as soon as humanly possible, but unless you are one of the lucky bastards that received an ARC of it, you will have a slow torturous wait like the rest of us. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be suffering here until next year! 😭
P.S. For anyone who has read Tithe, there is an exquisite little surprise near the end of the book with some old fan favorites!