spoiler-free review: the wicked king | preferring the sequel to the first book?

the wicked kingTitle: The Wicked King
Series; Folk of the Air #2
Author: Holly Black
Published in 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anyone. If you want to check the premise out, you can click on the title or the cover of the book, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

You can also read my thoughts on the first book, The Cruel Prince, on my blog. I’ll go over some of my thoughts on the first book in this review too, as it’s relevant to my explanations, but you can read a more detailed version here.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

If you’ve read my review of The Cruel Prince, the first book in the series, you’ll know I was left somewhat disappointed by the novel. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I was bored throughout most of the book. Nothing really happened until 75% into the story, and it made the pacing feel somewhat off. As I had borrowed that book from my local library, I wanted to do the same for the sequel. I put in an acquisition request, got approved, and picked The Wicked King up a few weeks later.

I’m so happy to say I enjoyed the sequel far more than I did the first book. I had no issues with the pacing of this story, and the predominant themes of The Wicked King are somewhat more up my alley.

This entire novel is basically made up of scheming. As the faerie world thrives on power, political intrigue and backstabbing is all in a day’s work. In The Wicked King, Jude is participating more and more in the scheming of faeries. She’s reached a certain level of power, and now needs to do everything she can in order to hold her position. I adore stories that focus on strategy, politics, and scheming, even though they can seem a lot less plot-driven to others. That’s why I think this sequel was more up my alley than the previous one, because we were always looking at all the players on the board, what has been happening, who could gain from it, and so on.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

I was also far more intrigued by the characters in the sequel. I feel like we didn’t truly get to know anyone in the first book, including Jude. In The Wicked King however, I had more of a grasp on their characters.

I’m absolutely fascinated by Jude. I find myself rooting for her all the time, even if that means cheering her on as she kills someone. She’s not a good person, and she owns it. She’s ambitious, smart, and realistic which is everything I’ve ever wanted in a main character. Basically, she’s a Slytherin and I’m in love with her. What I liked most about her is that Holly Black made her smart and cunning, but not all-knowing. She was able to outmaneuver so many people and faeries, but was caught off guard at times too.

I was also horrified to discover I started to like Cardan. I mentioned in my review of the first one that I wasn’t sure how to feel about the tension between Cardan and Jude, as he treated her so horribly for years – and that having an abusive past does not excuse you from abusing others. But while reading The Wicked King, I actually started to like him. Do I think he’s a good guy? Definitely not. Am I still rooting for him? Yes. I actually sort of felt like a proud mom by the end of the book, which is so odd.

I did wonder what the point of Locke in this story is. Is there actually a reason to have him in the novels, other than create tension between the families and couples? I also want to say that I absolutely hate Vivi. There, I said it. I think she’s selfish and naive to the point of hurting others, without even realizing how her behavior is affecting others in a negative way.

Before I end this review, I’ll quickly say… THAT ENDING. WHAT??


Surprisingly, I truly enjoyed reading The Wicked King. I wasn’t enamored by the first book in the series, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for the sequel. Unexpectedly, I ended up loving it! It’s filled with strategic plans, politics, scheming, murder and power plays, which I absolutely adore. If you were slightly disappointed by The Cruel Prince, I’d still recommend giving this a try. You might end up pleasantly surprised!

Have you read The Wicked King? What did you think of it? Have you ever enjoyed a sequel more than the first book?

Review: The Cruel Prince | good, but not as great as I had hoped it would be

the cruel princeTitle: 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 …

my thoughts on - review black (1)

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.

PLOT

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?

CHARACTERS

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.

QUOTE

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.

Review: Black Heart | Spoiler Free

black-heart

Black Heart (Curse Workers #3) by Holly Black
Published: 03.04.2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: Urban fantasy, YA
Rating: 4/5 stars – ★★★★
Goodreads

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the third book in the trilogy. 

My review is spoiler free, even to those who haven’t read any of the previous books.

review

I am so proud of myself for saying I want to finish a series in 2017 and then actually doing it. If you haven’t seen my post on 10 series I want to finish this year, you can find it here. The reason I hadn’t finished this trilogy about Cassel Sharpe, is that I prefer to listen to the audiobooks. They are narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, and I happen to adore him. I know that he has a very specific voice and speaking rhythm, so it’s definitely not for everyone. But I’d encourage you to give it a go. He just makes this series come to life for me.

(Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention with the previous two books, but I only now realized Cassel is a POC main character! The white dude on the cover of the first or second book certainly didn’t help. But yeah, I thought I’d mention it.)

Anyway, I don’t really want to say anything spoiler-y so I can’t say anything at all about the plot, as this is the final novel in the trilogy. So what can I tell you?

I can tell you what the first book, and the series really, is about. In this world (it’s urban fantasy), some people have powers. They’re called curse workers. A curse worker works by touch, which is why everyone wears gloves at all times. There are several types of workers though: death workers, luck workers, memory workers, physical workers, etc. They all have certain powers. As curse working is frowned upon/forbidden, big worker families usually have some ties to mob families -or are the mob families. Cassel’s entire family are workers, and that’s the world he grew up in. They are con artists, workers, thieves and liars. Some shit goes down at every turn so that Cassel not only has to try and avoid jail time for him and/or his family at most times, he also has to try and keep his grades up so he won’t get kick out of the fancy prep school he goes to.

I can tell you that I really enjoyed it. I found that listening to an audiobook on the train is the perfect way to utilize my commute to the maximum. I can read, and eat breakfast on the train in the morning at the same time without the risk of spilling on my book. I flew through this audiobook in just a few days, as I immediately put it on when I got on the train.

I can tell you that the audiobooks are worth a go. Jesse Eisenberg really elevates this series, in my opinion. Plus, they are only like 6 to 7 hours long. That’s not a long time at all.

I can tell you that Cassel is my precious, precious being. That I want to hug him endlessly. That I admire him for making me think about good vs bad people. Is anyone really a bad person? Or are there any actually good people out there? Life is about choices. And while Cassel always tries to do the right thing, he might not always make a good choice.

I can tell you that I really enjoyed Lila in this book. In the previous ones, I liked her but wasn’t a big fan. I do admire her now. And I admire Holly Black for not backing down when it comes to Lila.

I can tell you that I’m kind of sad Daneca didn’t play a bigger role in this. But that I’m glad I got to see more of Sam.

I can tell you that I was grinning at times, looking like a fool while listening to the audio book. Sarcastic Cassel gets me every time.

I can tell you that I loved how all the threads of the story came together at the end. How so much happened in a book of 6,5 hours.

I can tell you that at times, I didn’t see the point of a certain plotline. Or that I felt the different threads of the story weren’t woven together very well in the beginning. I sort of felt like Cassel jumped from one problem creation to the next, without dealing with any of them for a while. Yes, they all came together beautifully. But they didn’t start out that way.

I can tell you I’m so glad to have read this trilogy. That I was never really sure I’d like Holly Black’s writing until I started this series.

I can tell you that it makes me sad to see so little people talk about this trilogy. It’s urban fantasy mixing the mafia with magic -in a young adult setting. Doesn’t that sound great?

 I can tell you that I’m kind of sad it’s over.

That’s family for you. Can’t live with them, can’t murder them.

Mine. The language of love is like that, possessive. That should be the first warning that it’s not going to encourage anyone’s betterment.

Mini Reviews | Red Glove & Never Never

It’s time for another mini review post! I’ll be talking about 2 books I read recently. One I really enjoyed, one I didn’t. Let’s get into it!


red-gloveRed Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black
Published: 05.04.2011 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4/5 stars – ★★★★
Goodreads

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in the trilogy.

review

I read the first book in May, and didn’t want to leave too much time in between books (see my review of the first book here). Well, I actually listened to the audio book. So when I was planning my trip to Dublin in the beginning of October, I thought it would be the perfect time to listen to the sequel (I traveled alone). 

I love the audio books of this series. They are narrated by Jesse Eisenberg -which now means I associate Jesse with Cassel. Cassel really is a young Jesse to me. I love his narration, although I know a lot of people won’t. If you don’t like his voice, or the fact that he talks faster and a tad more quiet than most people, don’t listen to it. But I love it! It really gets me immersed in the book.  

I loved the fact that this book allows us to get to know some of the characters better. Especially Lila and Daneca were interesting to me! One from a worker/mafia family, one from a family fighting for worker rights (by worker, I mean curse worker and not a factory worker). 

The focus on the characters does show in the mystery aspect. Each book has a mystery/thriller aspect, and I have to admit I enjoyed the mystery of the first book more. I was more involved in it. I guess, in a way this book suffered a bit from middle-book-syndrome. 

I can’t wait to see what Cassel gets up to in the final book! I hope it’ll end up being my favorite of the trilogy. So far, this book was my least favorite. 


never-neverNever Never by Brianna Shrum
Published: 22.09.2015 by Spencer Hill Press
Genre: Retelling, YA
Rating: 2.5/5 stars – ★★.5
Goodreads

SynopsisJames Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child – at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one.

review

I was so disappointed in this book. It was a fairly quick read, which at this point is one of the only things it has going for it. As I’m thinking about it, I feel like I should bump it down to 2 stars. Anyway, let’s get started. 

I thought this was going to be a amazing Peter Pan retelling. And you may know that I’m a big fan of the show, Once Upon a Time. The Peter Pan season was one of my favorites, and Hook is probably my favorite character in the entire show. And I felt like he was done a gross injustice here. 

I wasn’t really immersed in the world, which is quite the feat because it’s Neverland. Neverland sounds pretty awesome in general -although a tad creepy. And I wasn’t in love, or attached really, to any of the characters either. 

The main character here is Hook, but there’s a fair amount of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily too. Peter was supposed to be this creepy sociopath. He has that childlike sense of right and wrong -and in his case, right is whatever he wants. And yes, he was most definitely a sociopath -or psychopath. Help me, I can never tell the difference. But I wasn’t creeped out at all. Just annoyed.

Then there’s Hook. He’s supposed to be the smart one, the one who wants to grow up because he believes that most of what Peter does is wrong. And I thought it would be an amazing tale of the both fighting each other, and Neverland attacking Hook. But once Hook decided to leave the Lost Boys, all he did was whine and sulk. Like a child -the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be. Plus, I could never get a grip on his character because the time and age is so different. One moment he’s 13, then something happens and he’s 17, and then he’s in his 20s. How does he know? How do I keep up?? Even though he was in his twenties, he still acted like a spoiled child! 

This was just not the book I hoped it would be. 

Audio Review: White Cat

white catWhite Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black
Published: 04.05.2010
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads | Bookdepository

Synopsis: Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago. But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen. 

review

I’ve been hearing about this series for absolute years. Not just this series, but Holly Black as an author in general too. This is the Holly Black series that seemed the most intriguing to me. I’m glad I finally picked this up -especially glad I chose to listen to this in audio format. 

AUDIO

I would recommend listening to the audio version of this book! It’s narrated by Jesse Eisenberg. I love Jesse Eisenberg, which is the main reason I chose to pick up this book. I find his voice both soothing and captivating. So it relaxes me, yet keeps my attention so my mind doesn’t wander. 

Because the book isn’t that long, the audio book is only about 6 hours and 45 minutes. That’s really not long at all! I felt like his reading pace was very pleasant, I didn’t feel the want to speed it up. 

I actually think I cared even more for Cassel because he had Jesse’s voice. It made him feel more real to me, and I subsequently pictured Cassel as a young version of Jesse Eisenberg.

PLOT

The story revolves around Cassel, who is part of a family of curse workers. By touching you, they can manipulate certain things. For example, his grandfather is a death worker. By touching you, he can kill you. That’s why people always wear gloves in this world, it’s impolite not to. Cassel lives in a boarding school away from his family, because he feels like he doesn’t belong. He’s the only one in his family who isn’t a curse worker. 

I really liked the story line of this book. There is this whole mystery surrounding current events and Cassel’s past. I have to admit that I guessed quite a big part of the mystery early in the book. Not all of it, there were certain aspects that still managed to take me by surprise. Yet I guessed one of the big revelations quite early on. It didn’t really bother me though, I was just cheering for Cassel to figure everything out AND find a solution. 

What got me though, was the ending of this book! I mean, whuuuuuuuuuut. Didn’t see that one coming. I can’t imagine how awful that must feel.

CHARACTERS

Obviously, the main character of this book is Cassel. I got so attached to him, partly because he’s a great character, and partly because he had Jesse Eisenberg’s voice. I liked him, truly. He’s nice, but no doormat. I don’t think I’d want to piss him off, honestly. 

What I loved about this book is that it is completely family-centered. Almost the entire book revolves around Cassel and his family. They may not all be great people. Yet they’re family. His mother is in prison, for working a rich man. She can control emotions, so she works rich men so they give her money, then leaves. As working people is actually not legal -I think- she went to prison. His father is a retired death-worker, his brothers work for a curse-worker-mafia-crime family. I kind of dislike every member of the family, aside from his grandfather. He was awesome. 


I really quite liked this book. It was a fun and quick read, especially on audio. I’d  truly recommend the audio book if you’re interested in this one. The narration was great, and the pace comfortable to listen to. If you’re into crime family/urban fantasy books in the YA spectrum, check it out!