Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Pub. Date: January 2, 2018
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.
Since this is such a new release, the first part of this review will be spoiler free.
Surprisingly I don’t have much experience with Holly Black books, having only read her Spiderwick Chroncles books. I don’t know why that is, it just is.
That made The Cruel Prince my first real dive into her YA and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought that the world was fantastical and whimsical, but also dark and terrifying. It felt inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, so I’m not complaining).
Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of Jude (which I’ll explain why in the spoiler section below), but I didn’t hate her. I just didn’t find her as appealing of a character as I thought I would. With that being said, I actually liked Cardan much more, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes in book 2.
Now for spoilers, you’ve been warned.
To be honest, when I started this book, and for most of the time reading it, I didn’t quite get the hype. Yes, it is beautifully written, and the characters – even if I didn’t like them – were multi-faceted and different. The world of Elfhame isn’t somewhere that I would choose to visit, but at the same time anything Fae makes me want to go there. I can definitely see the beauty and originality that Holly Black has created in this world. I’m not disputing that, and on a whole I did enjoy the book.
As for Jude, I liked her a little bit more by the very end of the book, but I found her to be way, way, way too stubborn for her own good. It’s on thing to not back down to bullies, it’s another thing to not back down to the point where it backfires, and you get hurt, or exploited. I felt like Jude didn’t know that there is a time and place to stand your ground, and a time and place to acquiesce. She kept saying that she was better than the Fae, but she stoops to their level a lot, and is just as ruthless as they are. I found her to be really flawed and annoying. I didn’t really like her sister’s either.
As for Locke. I wanted him to be a good guy. I wanted him to be a good guy. I really wanted him to be a good guy. He wasn’t the worst but he played both Jude and Taryn, and he ended up just sucking.
Cardan. I loved Cardan. Yes, he was a jerk, he was mean, and his home life doesn’t excuse his behavior towards Jude. He’s a real asshole when it comes to Jude. But I cannot wait to see how his story progresses in book 2. My heart broke for him though. He’s the prince who drinks and parties his life away, no one gives him a second glance unless it’s to scorn him. He’s treated like crap by Balekin who does nothing but drill into Cardan’s head that he’s weak and useless and deserves to be ‘punished’ for that weakness. I wish that this book had been a dual point of view, between Jude and Cardan. I think Cardan was just tired of being the family punching bag, so he stopped caring and started drinking.
I think he *hated* Jude so much, because he saw something of himself in her, some perceived weakness that had been beat into him by Balekin. Cardan had the short end of a straw and it was killing him.
Then I got to the end of the book, and my jaw dropped. THE TWIST JUDE PULLED with the crown left me reeling. I sat in shock for a good five minutes before I could even function. Then I proceeded to send my friend a Snapchat video where I wouldn’t talk, because what was there to say except, “holy crap”, “oh my god”, “oh my god” – over and over and over again, because that was all that I could say. At the end of the book I understood the hype. The ending wasn’t anything I was expecting. It blew me away.
I’m definitely looking forward to book 2, and I might be tempted to pick up some other Holly Black novels, having read and enjoyed The Cruel Prince.