The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Cruel Prince

Pages: 370 pages

Series: The Folk of the Air, Book 1

Writing this review with the book fresh in my mind, I am mostly convinced that I’ve found a new favourite read of mine. While it will take me a little time to distance myself from the enjoyment I felt from the story, here are my first impressions:

I quickly fell in love with the characters and the magical elements of this story. As well, I enjoyed going through the twists and turns of the plot with the characters. Jude was such an interesting character to be in the head of, I can’t wait to read more of this series. Black’s writing was so captivating that I found myself being unwilling to pause the story, even going so far as to get the audiobook so that I could continue to ingest the story while at work.

I pride myself in being able to read into what the characters are plotting before it’s explicitly laid out before the readers and I’m happy to say that I remained only a little ahead of the reveals during this read through. Usually, I can get the major plot twist near the beginning of the story. This time, I was only a chapter or so ahead of the big reveal. Even being able to guess what the big twist of the story was, I was thoroughly entertained by the way things were played out. Black did an amazing job at leaving the bread crumbs there for people to figure things out but doing so in the subtlest of ways. If I didn’t actively looking for the clues, I’m sure it would have snuck up on me. As it was, I was still caught off guard by some of the smaller twists.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fairy/faerie book that’s been done well. I know there was a period of time where I read a good chunk of books based around faerie mythology, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a faerie book that did something different. While staying true to the main characteristics of the different kinds of faeries, Black weaved a story that seemed new and original. She did a fantastic job in taking a concept that was so main stream before seem to be new and unique.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy the magical and the twisted. Fairy/faerie stories, when done right, are complex and intriguing. I believe that Black wrote such a story here.


*Spoilers ahead*

From the very first scene, I couldn’t wait to see how the relationship between Jude and Madoc would unfold. It was interesting to see Jude show him such love and devotion, and for Madoc to show this same devotion to Jude. I thought it was a nice touch that near the end of the story Jude looked into the mirror lake and saw her mother (after not trying for so many years) and Madoc. It showed how complex the relationship between the two had gotten, that Madoc would know who Jude was before ever actually meeting her. I expected them to be at odds at some point in the story and I wasn’t disappointed. Of course Madoc was going to underestimate Jude and her secret training.

I enjoyed that Jude’s initiative to gain an immunity to poisons was what gave her the upper hand against Madoc. Of course training herself to be able to withhold poisons was hard for her, but it was a smart thing to do. I’m surprised that Madoc, a person who’s whole life is based around war and strategy, didn’t think about poison training on his own. As someone who’s supposed to be a master strategist, you’d think that he would consider others trying to poison him to remove him as a threat and would take precautions to prevent this from being possible. I’m not surprised that Jude was able to get under his guard as he assumed her devotion to him was absolute, even though he was the one that killed her parents, since she didn’t let him think anything different. Overall, it was a great way to out strategize the master strategist.

While not unexpected, I was less excited to see how Jude and Taryn would be at odds throughout the story. It sucks that their climactic battle with each other was about a dumb boy that was playing with both of them. It was stupid that Taryn let Locke play with Jude even after everything that Jude had suffered on her behalf. I know that love makes people do stupid things from time to time, but that was a little harsh to do to your own sister – your own twin. Especially since Jude was trying to protect Taryn from the royalty that was harassing them.

I understand that Taryn has promised not to tell anyone about who her secret lover was, but you’d think that family would come before a boy. Especially since Locke decided to start a relationship with Jude. I’m sure it was partially because he wanted to keep his power over Taryn and partially because Jude was an interesting person, but Locke is just so despicable. Black did a great job at creating a character that’s too charming to be real and so easy to hate.

Another relationship that I expected to see was the one before Jude and Cardan. I enjoyed that Cardan wrote Jude’s name over and over on a piece of paper and hid it in a book he owned. It shows just how much he was obsessing over her and wishing he wasn’t. It was a perfect sneak peak into his mind that Jude wasn’t able to understand but as the reader was able to give more insight into a main character that you didn’t read from the perspective of. I can’t help but wonder if he ever noticed her personality before Locke brought Jude to his attention or if he was just bothering Jude before because she’s human and he’s, well, a jerk. Either way, I knew that they were going to have a volatile relationship when things did happen between them. Guessing that Jude was going to double cross Cardan with their coronation plan, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work out. I enjoy that both of them still hated the other even while making out. Jude throwing that dagger at the desk actually got a chuckle out of me.

I knew that Jude was going to stab him in the back the second that she made him swear fealty to her and it’s a good thing that Cardan refused to give her more time than a year and a day. I also appreciate that although this power over him forced him to become king, Cardan resolved not to make things easy on Jude. She made have his fealty, but she certainly does not have his trust or friendship. I can’t wait to see how this relationship progresses and whether or not Cardan and Jude are able to reconcile.

I appreciate that Vivi’s character didn’t change throughout the story. From the very beginning, she hated Madoc and faerie. While she swore an oath to forever hate Madoc, this didn’t mean that she would have to hate all of Faerie as well. Her wanting to go back to the human world and live there full time shows her love for her mother and adoptive father as well as her need to feel “normal”. I’m so happy that Vivi was able to find love in Heather. While it’ll be hard for Vivi to share everything about her life with Heather, I find it very endearing that Vivi wanted to move in with her and give a life in the human world a real try with her girlfriend.

One twist that I didn’t see coming for a while was Oak being Dain’s son. It wasn’t until Jude saw the golden acorn in Oriana’s chambers that things clicked for me. The second the acorn was announced, I knew what Balekin’s letter and Locke’s mother’s first acorn – that Jude had previously opened – were talking about. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention enough to earlier parts of the story, but it seemed almost as if Oak not being Oriana’s blood came out of left field. Now that was a twist that I enjoyed and hadn’t seen coming!

I can’t wait to see how Oak does in the human world alongside Vivi. I’m sure that Vivi will be able to help raise him into a responsible king one day that will make Faerie better off. As well, I’m sure that Cardan will make things more difficult for Jude and Oak throughout the rest of the series. I predict that Jude will become even more underhanded and conniving, being the Queen of the Shadow Court (at least, that’s what I’ve decided to call her in my head). I’m looking forward to continuing on with the series and seeing how the whole cast develops.

2 thoughts on “The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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