The Wicked King by Holly Black

Rating: 5/5 stars The Wicked King

Pages: 336 pages

Series: The Folk of the Air, Book 2

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Fae


I can’t explain why, but going into this book I thought that the Folk of the Air series was actually a duology. I thought that The Wicked King was going to be the final book in this story so I was putting off reading it because I didn’t want to leave this world for good. Well, it turns out that I had an even better reason to put off reading this book for as long as I did. Sure, I was glad to find out that this was the second book in a trilogy and not just a duology, but this book ends on a huge cliff hanger.

While I’d still highly recommend giving this series a try, as The Cruel Prince was a fantastic first book to a series and The Wicked King definitely doesn’t suffer from second book syndrome, if you can’t handle extreme cliffhangers I would suggest waiting until the third book comes out to actually start reading this series. Black wrote the final cliffhanger in this book so beautifully that I almost can’t wait for the next book to come out. This just goes to show me how amazing of a series this is.

This book is a fantastic continuation of the events that took place in The Cruel Prince as even though I waited a couple of months to pick the story back up I fell right back into the world and the lives of our characters. Black made it easy to remember how I felt about the main cast and her introduction into a bigger world was beautifully done. Jude is just as strong-headed in this book, but so is Carden. Every character kept what made them unique and Black managed to make every character seem to have even more depth than before.

This book cements in my mind that this series is one of my new favourites. Black did a fantastic job at introducing characters to both love and hate and their interactions with each other just make these feelings stronger. As well, their problems feel real.

If you’re a fan of fairy/fantasy books, I’d suggest giving this series a try. It’s a twist on fairy that I haven’t read in a while and I’m glad to read about these creatures again.

I’d also highly recommend giving the audiobook a listen as it’s beautifully done. Caitlin Kelly brings out the magic of Black’s writing, emoting through her words in a way that helps bring the story into crystal clear focus.

*Spoilers ahead*

Jude Duarte and Carden Greenbriar may well be two of the most complex characters that have ever been written. Jude is definitely a character whose main goal is to get power in Faerie at (basically) any cost. Carden, on the other hand, never wanted the power to rule and yet found himself thrust into the role of High King by Jude. It’s quite obvious that in this story Carden doesn’t even try to be a good High King because he feels like he can’t be since he’s living under Jude’s thumb. With her holding basically ultimate control over him, Carden makes it clear that he doesn’t believe he’s got the power to do much of anything as “High King”.

It’s heartbreaking to me that Carden really only wants to gain Jude’s trust. It’s so obvious that he wants to work together with her rather than being forced to do her bidding. Heck, Carden rankles whenever Jude gives him an order because he wants to prove that she can trust him. She doesn’t have to force him to do his bidding – he’s so in love with her that even though he certainly hates her (at least some of the time), he can’t help but want to help her and her scheming ways.

His love for Jude even caused him to do unforgivable things – such as allowing the Undersea to attack the Court of Termites – as a way to get Jude back. Even knowing that she’d been keeping things from him the whole time, Carden still risked basically his throne and right to rule in order to protect Jude and bring her back to his side.

This same love is what allowed Carden to admit to Jude that part of the reason he has a soft spot for Balekin is because Balekin was the first person to actually see something worth value in Carden. Granted, Balekin saw some of himself in Carden, but at least someone saw something that they liked. From her snooping, Jude already knew that Carden’s own mother basically didn’t care about him while he was growing up which helped shape him into the cruel person he is. Heck, it was his love and vulnerability that led Carden to wondering aloud what Jude ever saw in him, even if there is more to him that she hates.

Even knowing that Jude had ultimate power over him, and part of him should be glad that she was out of the way and unable to command him, Carden had to admit that the whole time Jude was gone he couldn’t help but imagining what it would be like to have Jude at his side, commanding him to do her bidding. How he wished he could have followed her commands. I know that fighting the battle between wanting her with him and wanting his freedom had to have twisted something in Carden.

Carden’s torment between loving and hating Jude made it bitter sweet for me when he finally proposed she marry him – to become the Queen – in exchange for releasing her hold on him early. It was a trade that would allow him to prove that she could place her trust in him while still giving her all of the power that she so desired. Carden told her that they’d been at each others throats for too long and the kingdom had suffered too much for it. This line alone showed how much growth Carden went through between the final act of The Cruel Prince and the majority of The Wicked King.

Not to mention the fact that Carden’s desperation to prove himself and his loyalty to Jude allowed Taryn to take advantage of Carden while he was poisoned as a way to get Madoc to safety and to steal half of the kingdom’s army. Oh, and Taryn used her role as Madoc’s current favourite daughter to get Carden to release Madoc from his vows to the crown while she was betraying her twin. What a great sister, huh? What happened to the girl in The Lost Sisters who tried so hard to prove her innocence to herself so that she might convince Jude to forgive her?

I do need to admit, however, that I found it ironic that while Jude was trying to get Carden to seduce Nicasia Carden got mad enough to seduce Jude even though he was trying to stay away from her. Part of me yearns to know how satisfied Carden was to realize that he was Jude’s first and that Locke hadn’t managed to take that away from him. I also want to know what the lies Carden wants to tell Jude are while he’s seducing her. Is it that he hates her? That she disgusts him? Because while she does technically drive him “insane” at time, I don’t think that he ever truly hated her. Sure, Carden must have hated his feelings for Jude and the fact that she had at least some semblance of power over him even before he agreed to be under ther thumb. But that doesn’t mean that he ever truly hated Jude. And I can’t believe that Jude ever actually disgusted Carden since he obviously yearns for her and loves her despite himself. It’s probably the way that she makes him feel that disgusts him.

Aside from the fact that the Jude and Carden romance is a giant driving force of the plot – both directly motivating character to act certain ways as well as working behind the scenes to subconsciously cause Jude and Carden to act ways in which they wouldn’t otherwise act – the relationship between Carden and Jude is intense.

Of course there’s the fact that Jude has pretty much complete control over Carden if she wishes to execute it – which she does. Often. But it’s the ways in which the two work behind the other’s back that causes so many issues to arise.

The most glaringly obvious example of this would be Balekin’s life. Carden is adamant that Jude isn’t to kill him. While he may hate Balekin, he’s still family and Carden demanded that Jude leave him alone. Not only is he family, but he became the ambassador for the Undersea.

Of course Jude needs to own up to her bargain with the Court of Termites. She promised them a favour of their choosing in order to get them to pledge their allegiance to Carden and he stabbed them in the back through rescuing Jude at any cost. Dolkamera made it clear to Jude that she must kill Balekin in retribution for the Undersea attacking their court. It was Jude’s only chance to show that her word as a human, who’s able to lie at will, can still be trusted in a land where beings can’t lie. Instead of telling Carden about this little issue, she decides to deal with it behind his back like she does almost everything.

Sure, Balekin gave Jude an easy excuse to execute her plan – luring her out into the gardens and dueling her – but that doesn’t mean that she should have gone through with everything behind Carden’s back and then not tell him about it even though they got married and spent the night together. (A part of me did feel for Jude while she killed Balekin, though, as she wished she had the ability to be anyone other than a “good little murderer”.)

This just makes it worse when Carden and Jude are woken up to the news that Queen Orla is demanding retribution for Balekin’s death. It is only through this meeting that Carden finds out that Jude is the one to kill Balekin so it makes sense that his reaction to the news is to banish Jude from the lands – even if she is his queen. Carden spent so long trying to get Jude to trust him, to talk to him, that this had to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Carden put up with so much from Jude and yet she killed his brother like it was nothing.

It is here that Jude remembers, too late by her account, what it’s like to hate Carden with all of her heart. It was the fact that she did love him, that she let him in to her heart and started trusting him in the twisted way she knows how, that allowed her to be so caught off guard and heartbroken. After living a life of trying to fit in to a family of killers, it was actually showing that she is a member of that family that finally screws Jude over.

If Jude had only told Carden about Balekin before Queen Orla showed up, I have to believe her punishment wouldn’t have been as severe. It was the fact that Jude once again showed her inability to properly trust Carden that sent him over the edge. How can he rule with Jude – to love her and let her make decisions for the kingdom – when Carden can’t even trust Jude to come to him?

It needs to be said that Jude and Carden’s relationship isn’t the only major thing that happens throughout this story. There’s also the plot lines of Jude being betrayed by those she trusted. Which, I’d just like to say, I think I did a pretty good job at predicting.

At the start of the book, when Jude forgave Taryn, I knew that Taryn would find a way to betray Jude once again. I know that this is pretty much the easiest prediction in the world to make, since Taryn already showed how willing she was to betray her own sister vis a vis Locke in The Cruel Prince and The Lost Sisters, but it’s the first betrayal I saw coming. Sure, Black made this betrayal much worse than I’d seen coming, but the important part is I knew it would happen.

I also saw Madoc’s betrayal of Jude coming, following the events of The Cruel Prince. Madoc spent so much time underestimating Jude and her plans even though he raised her that it was impossible for them to work together. As soon as Madoc found out that Jude had absolute power over Carden, it was just a matter of time until Madoc found a way to betray what little trust and love Jude still held for him.

It was also an easy prediction to make that Carden was going to end up betraying Jude at the end of this book. While I didn’t see the betrayal coming after they already got married, I knew that Carden and Jude would be the end of each other. Sure, they’re still both alive at the end of this story, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to cause their mutual destruction in the third book of the series. Jude’s inability to fully trust Carden (or even trust him a little bit) made it clear that he would end up betraying her. He was already finding any way he could to act around her commands. Why wouldn’t Carden take it a step further and end up betraying her in one way or another?

I also knew that a member of the Court of Shadows would end up betraying Jude at some point. They were really the only people that Jude discussed her plans with so there was no way that they were going to all end up being on her side of the war. I have to admit, though, that at first I thought it would be the Roach since he was working so closely with Carden and teaching him his tricks. I really did assume that the Roach and Carden would be working together in their betrayal of Jude but I was obviously very wrong about which member of the Court of Shadows would betray her. I didn’t see the Ghost’s betrayal coming.

Locke and Jude’s obvious hatred for each other told me that he would find a way to attack Jude, though I didn’t see it being in such an obvious way. When the group of riders attacked Jude on her way to Madoc’s estate the night before Taryn’s wedding, I knew it had to be Locke and his cronies. The fact that Jude lost the present she’d originally gotten Taryn made it even clearer to me that Black was setting it up to be a clue that Locke was the one to ambush Jude in the forest.

Looking at the main plot of the story, that is to say the Undersea threatening war of Carden doesn’t marry Nicasia, I was reminded at how cunning the fae can really be. Carden ends up seducing Nicasia in order to uncover the secret plans that the Undersea has like Jude suggested. Nicasia, in return, punches Jude in the stomach when she first awakens in the Undersea “for Carden”. And, of course, in the final showdown between Carden and Queen Orla, Carden uses Nicasia as a tool to show his absolute power as the High King and how the Undersea should be scared of him if he were to get angry.

Sure there was more to it such as Jude’s imprisonment in the Undersea. Jude got “glamoured” be Queen Orla to tell all of Carden’s secrets so that they might find Carden’s weaknesses. There was also the “glamouring” by Balekin to kiss him as if he were Carden and the subsequent “glamouring” to make Jude think that she was in love with him and wanted to help kill Carden and steal the crown. Jude was starved and made to act like she was living in luxury since she had to constantly pretend to be glamoured. The Undersea broke Jude and they didn’t even know it.

There was also the fact that the Roach and the Bomb caught Jude sneaking out of Hallow Hall and she couldn’t produce any charms so they thought that Jude had been glamoured. Which, in turn, caused Jude to give up her secret that she couldn’t be glamoured. It also gave Carden the chance to try to glamour her to crawl to him, which I imagine was a very satisfying command for him to give her.

I do have to admit it was a satisfying scene for me to read. Especially since the scene began with Jude having barely enough energy to scale the castle wall, slipping into Carden’s rooms, placing  hand over his mouth to wake him up, and then ended with Jude being embarrassed by Carden being so obviously naked. Oh, also Carden complaining that all three of them think the solution to everything is to kill those who oppose you. This once again shows how much Carden has matured throughout the story – though it’s important to note that he was against violence in The Cruel Prince as well.

Balekin trying to frame Cardin’s poisoning on Jude was also a good twist. Especially since he had Carden poisoned before Carden joined the public. Heck, having Jude carrying the exact poison was a pretty smart move on his part. Of course, Balekin hadn’t counted on Jude outsmarting him. The fae seem to do a really good job at underestimating Jude since she’s just a human. They also tend to forget that she was raised by Madoc, who’s supposed to be the best at strategy. She was bound to pick up a trick or two during all those years in his house.

I can’t imagine what Jude must be feeling, having gone through so much to gain power only to have it slip through her fingers due to her own inability to communicate with and trust Carden. I mean, Jude really does seem to get betrayed by those she cares about a lot. She also doesn’t seem to be the best at scheming since her schemes never seem to go her way and almost always end in her causing more harm than good. I have to wonder if both Jude and Carden will end up being alive at the end of the series since they both seem dead set on ending the other and screwing over as many people in the process as possible.

I wonder how long it will take Jude to swallow her pride and seek out Madoc. To go crawling back to her “father” and try to prove her worth to him again. There will never be trust between the two again, if there ever was in the first place, but I can see how the two would benefit from putting aside their differences and working together.

A part of me also wonders if Grimsen is working with Madoc now or if he’s taken the crown he was working on and escaped to a different corner of the worlds. Grimsen made it obvious that he has a distaste for the current crown and those who rule as High King, but how willing would he be to work with Jude after everything that’s happened? Would her being an exiled queen put her in his good books? Or would the fact that she is the queen of Faerie going to make it harder for her to get Grimsen to work with her?

Finally, I’d just like to point out how amazing Jude has been this whole time at acting her way through situations and creating worlds to suit her needs, along with the roles that people need to play within her schemes. While she’s not the best at scheming itself, when it comes to tricking others into believing she’s a certain way Jude is phenomenal. Who else would be able to convince others that they’re glamoured when being slowly broken down both physically and mentally? Jude never gave away the fact that faerie glamour did nothing to her.

I guess living with the killer of her parents would go a long way to helping Jude become such a talented actor, but it’s amazing how she’s able to force people to play the roles she needs to when things are going her way. They might not stay the way she wants them to, but when things are good for her, everything is coming up Jude. I can’t wait to see how this “talent” of Jude’s will play out in the next installment of the series.

There’s so much more to this story that I didn’t touch on, but as a whole I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this story. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Queen of Nothing.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’ve read the series yourself. What was your favourite part of the series so far? What are you most looking forward to?

2 thoughts on “The Wicked King by Holly Black

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