The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #1)
Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Summary: 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.
My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾
My Thoughts: The Cruel Prince is a solid start to a unique YA Fantasy trilogy! There’s intrigue, immersive world-building, and a plot that goes in such unique directions with surprises at every turn!
I’m honestly so surprised with my rating!! I really thought I would give this book at least 4 stars. I’d heard so much buzz and great things about The Cruel Prince, but sadly it just didn’t live up to all the expectations as I’d hoped for and fell a bit short.
Now, even though my rating is a bit low, I will absolutely be continuing with this trilogy. Overall I found myself to be even more invested in the story as I neared the end.
The book takes off right away told through a 3rd person POV of Jude, her older sister Vivi, her twin sister Taryn, and her parents going about their day when a mysterious man arrives at their doorstep.
This man we learn, Madoc, is actually Vivi’s father and comes from the land of the Fae (which makes Vivi ½ Fae). He murders the girls’ parents and is forced to take them back to Faerieland for the mistake that their mother made of leaving Madoc and the land of the fae behind.
Now, told through a 1st person POV, 10 years have passed and all Jude wants is to feel a sense of belonging in Faerieland. Madoc has trained all 3 of them, but Jude just wants to prove to herself and to the other fae royalty, like Prince Cardan, that she does belong.
Jude and her twin sister Taryn continue to face ridicule and bullying from Cardan and his friends, which I saw as such defining aspect to Jude and her actions.
I really sympathized with her and the anger she felt. Being one of a few humans in this world given protection through a higher level fae, she just wants to find a sense of belonging, now knowing she can never fit in the real world again.
While I don’t want to give to much of the plot away, I will say the story continues as Jude wants to gain her place in this land and will use any means she can to achieve her goals.
What I really enjoyed about The Cruel Prince was how wonderfully the setting merged with the themes and complex elements of the story. For example in the land of Elfhame the descriptions Black uses, make the story almost cinematic and immersive, while also building/weaving in politics, intrigue, and mystery to the world so easily, which I really loved.
The beginning couple chapters were really strong. They perfectly set up the dark, magical and mysterious world of The Cruel Prince.
Another aspect I really loved was the development of certain characters. They were ones I honestly either wasn’t too much of a fan of or felt they were a bit flat, but as the story progressed, I ended up enjoying where their development led them.
Those characters include: Prince Cardan, Prince Dain & Locke (one of Cardan’s friends). All 3 of those characters really surprised me more than I thought they would and really had a lot of development throughout the story.
Especially Prince Cardan. He changes significantly as the story progresses and I truly felt he surprised me the most. I really wasn’t expecting to like him so much, but the more that is discovered about him + his unique development, made him one of my favorite characters of The Cruel Prince.
Vivi, Jude’s older sister, was probably another one of my favorite characters + one I adored from the very beginning! What made her so interesting was how she viewed the land of the Fae, not only being the oldest, but also seeing the unique way the author explored her strong connection to the real world than the Fae. Vivi’s choice to exclude herself from this world as much as possible, was to me, just a really unique direction and was explored in such a great way! (+ There is also an f/f relationship, when we learn that Vivi has been dating a girl from the real world)
As for Jude, what I liked the most about her was the intrigue and deception that builds and becomes such a vital part to her as a character.
Now as to why my rating was pretty low:
I felt there was a mix of things that made this book a bit disappointing for me. To start, I felt the pacing became rather slow for me personally and it made it a bit difficult for me at times to stay truly invested in what was going on. It made the plot feel much less gripping + in general, I felt the plot easily lost its way at certain points.
Another aspect that didn’t sit well with me (*this is completely personal/subjective*) was the dynamic of Jude w/ her twin sister Taryn. Having a twin myself, I was so happy to read about twin sisters, especially in YA Fantasy! However, there were certain moments or scenes that I felt made it difficult for me to really see them as twins.
For example, I felt that Jude/Taryn’s personalities were so starkly different that they felt less like twins and were more just sisters + opposites just being called ‘twins.’ We had Jude who was the tougher of the two & Taryn who was the more timid/emotional one.
While I understood why that was done, personally I found it would have made their relationship much more interesting if they had more similarities than differences and see how that played out instead. Also I found they had such few scenes together!~
There was also moments where through the writing, it would feel like there wasn’t much build-up to what was going on & then out of nowhere things would happen. I felt it made it really difficult for me to really invest myself in those moments because they came & went so quickly!
I also did find it difficult to really buy that Jude was the anti-heroine/ morally grey character I’d seen so many people talk about. I felt that those moments were more sporadic for me and she wasn’t as dark/cunning as I had expected.
Regardless, as I found myself reaching the end I closed the book feeling more positive and intrigued to see where the sequel will take the story (the epilogue really surprised me!).
The Cruel Prince is an immersive YA Fantasy that takes you on a magical adventure exploring the politics and intrigue in the land of the fae! The writing allows not only for various themes and topics to be explored, but also sets up an intriguing + magical world. Filled with mystery, politics, and magic, Black’s novel develops (though a bit slowly) to leave readers eager for the next installment!