Title: The Cruel Prince
Series: Folk of the Air #1
Author: Holly Black
Published in January 2018 by Hot Key Books
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: 7/10 – quite liked it
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The fearsome assassin abducts all three girls and brings them to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed into the royal court. Mocked and tormented for being merely mortal, Jude soon realises that to survive in this treacherous, dangerous, new world, she needs to be as smart, cunning and deceitful as the Fey themselves.
But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan. Jude must take the utmost care …
I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, to be honest. I know this is such a hyped up book, but it never really spoke to me. I’m usually not the biggest fan of fae/faerie books, and I don’t even know why. I didn’t want to buy The Cruel Prince, even though I’d heard nothing but incredible things about it. The reason I did end up reading it, however, is that I saw it at my local library. Reading it for free? Sure! Then I’m definitely willing to give it a go. And while I did end up enjoying this book, I didn’t love it as much as most people did.
In short, this story follows Jude as she lives in the world of Faerie and yearns to truly become a part of their world. When Jude and her sisters were children, Madoc came to their house (in the human world) and murdered their parents. He took them back to the Faerie side, and raised them. Vivienne, Jude’s older sister, is his biological daughter, while Jude and Taryn (twin sisters) are human. Even though they were raised in the world of Faerie, they’ve never truly been part of it, simply because they are human. Jude wants to earn her place in their world, and gain the respect of the faeries so they’ll treat her better.
I have to say that I found the first half of the book just okay. I didn’t feel compelled to continue reading or to pick it back up when I had put it down. It seemed like more of an introduction to the world, as usual in fantasy novels, but without an actual in-depth explanation of the place. You learn the basic things a human needs to do to survive alongside the Faeries, but I can’t remember learning much about the actual countries, rulers and politics. Even though the court is such an important part of the novel.
The second half of the book is what ‘saved’ it for me. As it was packed with politics, action, betrayal, and actual things happening, I was far more inclined to keep reading and not put it down.
The lack of world building and the off pacing is what made me give it a 7/10, instead of a higher rating. I still enjoyed the reading experience, but I didn’t love the story. I will say that the ending surprised me, and I loved that! I do want to continue the series and find out what happens next, so I guess I’m hooked anyway?
The main character of the novel is Jude, one of the human sisters brought to the Faerie world by Madoc. She wants to earn her place in court, and if I’m not mistaken plans to do so through becoming a knight/protector/soldier. I honestly can’t remember what she called it. She’s fierce and impulsive, and skeptical yet naive at the same time which makes for an interesting character to read about. One of the things I admire most about her is that she’s brave enough to do some of the things I wish I did as a teenager. Speaking up, standing up against bullies, and so on.
I would say that Jude is one of the only characters I feel I have a grasp on. Logically, the main character is the most developed one. However, you tend to get at least a tiny grasp on the personalities of the most important side characters as well. Here, I could only tell you one or two things about each of the side characters which makes them feel very superficial and replaceable. I’ll show you what I mean by talking about some of the side characters next.
Taryn, Jude’s twin sister. She’s the more meek one of the two. slight spoiler > I think she’s the worst person and sister ever. I would never treat my sibling the way she treated hers, and it disgusts me to no end. < end spoiler
Vivienne, Jude’s older sister. She’s in love with a human woman, wishes she was in the human world, and hates Madoc. That’s all I could tell you about her.
Cardan, part of the Faerie royalty (youngest prince). Bully with a tragic backstory.
Madoc, bloodthirsty general (I believe), father of Vivienne, foster parent to Taryn and Jude.
You see what I mean? Even after reading the whole book, which mainly focuses on the people mentioned above, I could only tell you a few surface-level facts on each character. I feel like they could’ve been more developed.
What they don’t realize is this: Yes, they frighten me, but I have always been scared, since the day I got here. I was raised by the man who murdered my parents, reared in a land of monsters. I live with that fear, let it settle into my bones, and ignore it. If I didn’t pretend not to be scared, I would hide under my owl-down coverlets in Madoc’s estate forever. I would lie there and scream until there was nothing left of me. I refuse to do that. I will not do that.
Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable book. The pacing could’ve been more even, and the world and characters more developed, but I guess that’s what the sequels are for. I will continue the series as the ending left me wanting more, but it’s not as great as I had hoped it would be after witnessing the hype surrounding it.