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.
I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical about starting The Folk of the Air series. Shannon had made a really big deal about it and was adamant that I read it. I know she loves faeries, and I love magic, and we both really enjoyed Holly Black’s previous book, The Darkest Part of the Forest, so I decided to give it a go.
I was not disappointed. This book was full of very detailed descriptions of magic and how things worked, which is something that I appreciate in a magical book — how they don’t just say something magic happened and then don’t describe how it happened. This book gives all of the hows in epic detail, which I really loved. This is one of those books that has the ability to really transport the reader to an altogether different place from mortal reality, and you really get sucked in.
There have been books that I have read that have taken me months, because I get bored with all the confusing characters and world-building, and don’t get me wrong — there are lots of characters to keep up with in this book — but everything is laid out in a way that is perfectly understandable and fits together perfectly in the mind of the reader. There is no confusion, but many twists and turns and surprises, which makes this book a real page-turner.
The main character, Jude, is a mortal girl that was whisked off to live in Faerie when she was very young, and although she has had a difficult life, she has adapted very well, and throughout this story we get to see her turn from a young girl dreaming of recognition into a young woman who knows herself and her place in this strange world as she gains confidence throughout her fast-paced experiences and strategic plays at gaining power.
Jude is part of the gentry under the High Court of Faerie, as her “father”, Madoc, is the king’s military general. She rubs elbows with other members of the court, but she is despised for being mortal and having the status that she has, particularly by a group led by Prince Cardan. This group of her peers picks on her and her twin sister, Taryn, constantly, and while Taryn wants to be meek and mild and take the path of least resistance, Jude is set on revenge.
The story takes some major turns, as the reader is constantly surprised at all of the strategic alliances that are made and secrets that are discovered. If I could sum up this book in one word, it would be strategery.
As I’ve stated previously in other posts, pretty much every book that I read [as a hand-me-down from Shannon] has a female lead, which is sometimes hard for me to resonate with. However, it’s not hard to look through the eyes of Jude in this book, as she is strong, brave, and turns out to be a real bad-ass, just like my wife — which allows me to see why she enjoys these types of books so much — because it’s super easy to see herself in these strong female roles, since she’s such a strong female herself, so they really resonate with her.
That being said, if you like fantasy, bloodshed, trickery, spies, secrets, surprises, and political, military, and social strategery, then you will love The Cruel Prince. I have already started the next book in the series, The Wicked King (4.6 on Goodreads), and am already nearly halfway through, after only finishing The Cruel Prince (4.16 on Goodreads) yesterday — which is saying a lot for me, because I have lots of priorities, which typically turn me into a “slow” reader — but that is not the case with this series. I give The Cruel Prince 4 stars. I can’t wait to finish The Wicked King so I can discuss it with Shannon and review it on here, because it’s supposed to be even better.