Review Sunday: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Folk of the Air #1
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 years old 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.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war 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.”

Weirdly, and kind of horribly, part of me is disappointed with this book.  I usually try to keep myself away from hype but I was very unsuccessful in that regard with this and I think I got a little carried away.  Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it immensely and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”

1.  The characters.  The big draw for me to this book was the promise of incredibly morally grey characters and it did not disappoint.  One of the best examples I can give is the Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu because that’s how grey these characters are.  In so many other fey stories, the humans are the ones who want to escape that world but in this story, Jude (and to some extend her twin sister Taryn) want to be a part of  that world because of the promise it offers.  This forces them into some tricky decisions and compromising positions.  Because of this, it’s so interesting to see their interactions with each other.  You get such a clear view of each character (Madoc is one of my favorites for sure!) but their interactions always bring surprises.  More on a technical note, I found each character to be well drawn and not even side characters were neglected when it came to development.  To use the words of Meredith Grey, everyone is very dark and twisty.
One thing I found myself wishing for, though, was a cast of characters and their positions/affiliations.  There are quite a few introduced at the beginning and while it’s by no means an overwhelming number, I found myself struggling to keep track of everyone’s place within the court which would, undoubtedly, made the story much more satisfying and interesting.

“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.”

2.  The plot.  This is also where a bit of disappointment set in.  For some reason, I just couldn’t get myself truly invested in the story until about the halfway mark.  What kept me going until then was interest in Madoc’s actions and the curious hints the author left behind.  There isn’t too much of an overall plot arc to speak of.  However, once the plot really got going, it was going.  The ending especially is so incredibly intricate and beautiful.  The author also build up a lot of plot lines towards the end and surprisingly, it wasn’t at all overwhelming.  As I said, it all just wove together for a beautifully planned ending.

“If you hurt me, I wouldn’t cry. I would hurt you back.”

3.  The romance.  I’m not going to say too much about this because it’s part of the major ending twist but I will say that I thought I was expecting it but it turns out that I wasn’t at all but the twist perfectly exemplified the involved character’s attitudes and I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.  That doesn’t happen to me too often (YA and fantasy can get remarkably predictable if you know where to look) and I immensely enjoyed it.

“I have lied and I have betrayed and I have triumphed. If only there was someone to congratulate me.”

4.  The setting/atmosphere.  At first, I found it hard to find my way in this new, reimagined land of the fey.  I’ve read a few books that take place in the land of the fey and they’ve always been based on the same basic mythological roots and haven’t really strayed from that.  However, this book cleverly reimagines the entire scope while bringing in touches of familiarities as cornerstones (i.e. keeping the basic groups as the Unseelie, the Seelie, and the wild fey).  I came to love this new world and while it isn’t the most atmospheric book I’ve ever read, it worked very well with the complex plot and characters.

“Let’s have a toast. To the incompetence of our enemies.”

The Final Verdict:
While I do have some minor grievances, I did enjoy it overall.  The Cruel Prince is full of startling twists, complex characters, and brilliant plotlines. Also, quick side note, this book is incredibly quotable.
4.5 stars

0 thoughts on “Review Sunday: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black”

  1. I’ve only ever really loved one series of Black’s. So while I hear great things about this one I’m worried. I’ll definitely try it though. I’ll have to remember it’s slow at first.


  2. It's interesting that Holly Black completely reimagines her world here rather than simply building on what has gone before. I prefer that in a novel although I am not sure overall that this is a book for me.Glad it gripped you enough that you're looking forward to the sequel though 🙂


  3. I haven't read anything by her but I'm thinking I'll check out some more of her work because I'm kind of unsure about her writing style. I liked it here but I don't know about anywhere else. I look forward to hearing what you think, Jenny! It's definitely more character driven in the first half which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the real conflict isn't really introduced so it was lacking a little direction. Still, I really hope you enjoy it!


  4. Same with me! All my minor irritations were kind of half-forgotten when I thought about how amazing all those gray characters are! Sometimes I wonder if that's really fair but emotions have to count for something, right? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Alicia!


  5. Fascinating review Laura! I was going to pass on this one since Holly and I don't agree on a lot of things but you seriously intrigue me with this one. Madoc is a character I heard before and it sounds like you read totally for him. On my tbr now…


  6. Thank you! I completely get that. There are some authors I just can't get into even though everyone else seems to be raving about them (Cassandra Clare, Jane Austen, the list goes on and on). Still, if you end up getting around to it, I'm interested to hear what you think and whether it'll work for you! He was one of the most developed unapologetically ruthless characters (he kind of reminded me of Kestrel's father or even Kestrel herself in The Winner's Curse) so I kind of lived for his scenes once I got into the book 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Dani!


  7. The hype sure has a way of spoiling some books for us. I wonder if you'd have felt more invested in the plot had you gone into this with lower expectations? Either way, I'm glad you didn't end up totally disliking the book anyway- that would have been such a bummer!


  8. This sounds really good, I can't escape the hype either! I'm sorry it didn't quite meet your expectations but I'm glad that the grey moral part does not dissapoint. I admit, I am drawn to this book due to the promise of morally gray character too :DTasya // The Literary Huntress


  9. That's what I'm wondering too. I'm not sure how to test the theory but I'm definitely up for trying to stay away from reviews about books I haven't read yet. Haha yeah that would have been awful if it completely ruined it! Thanks for stopping by, Ruz!


  10. It's really hard, isn't it? I'm really interested in what people have to say about it and whether I should take the time to read it, but at the same time I don't want to get too excited and have my hopes and dreams dashed. I look forward to your opinion on it, Tasya!


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