Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk of the Air #1)

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 2, 2018

Source: Purchased

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.

  

Holly Black’s THE CRUEL PRINCE is a thrilling story about the impact of dark, evil deeds on those who can’t protect themselves…and the darkness those deeds breed within them.

Human twin sisters Jude and Taryn Duarte and their half-fae sister Vivienne had everything stolen from them: their parents, their human lives, and their very world. Swept away into Faerie, they’ve lived for ten years in the house of the fae general Madoc, who’s been like a father to them. Though he is distant and self-serving, he loves them in his way. The only problem? Madoc killed their parents.

Forced to live with — and having grown to love — her parents’ killer, Jude has learned that nothing in Faerie is ever simple, especially for a human. Tormented by the cruel Prince Cardan and his set of noble fae, the human twins are under constant threat of ensorcellment and death. While her sister Taryn has chosen to bend like a reed in the face of these indignities, Jude has been forged into steel. And like all great weapons, she hungers for blood. When news spreads that the High King is relinquishing his throne and will choose one of his six heirs to wear the crown in his stead, Jude sees a pathway to revenge and all that she craves: power.

A consistent critique of YA fantasy is the lack of risks for the main characters and the general “dulling down” of the violence that inevitably follows a coup. Let me be clear: those critiques are absolutely not applicable to THE CRUEL PRINCE. Holly Black pulls no punches, and neither does Jude. Every time I thought she wouldn’t go there, she proved me wrong. Jude does terrible things, defying the expectations of both her enemies and those closest to her. She’s truly unpredictable and reckless…and it is delicious.

I love that Black never indicates which sister’s approach is the better one, whether it’s truly wiser to keep your head down, or to stand up and fight. There’s no oversimplified moralizing here, and neither Taryn nor Jude’s strategy is without its strengths or weaknesses. Taryn seeks to gain power and influence by being meek and attracting a powerful protector, while Jude spits in the faces of the fae and struggles to fight their control at every turn. Unsurprisingly, their difficult choices drive a wedge between them, and soon Jude isn’t sure if her sister is someone she should trust. Never knowing who was on Jude’s side — or even if Jude’s side is the “right” one — is just part of the thrill that is THE CRUEL PRINCE.

Of course, familial relationships aren’t the only ones fraught with betrayal and deception: romance is a deadly game in Faerie, and for better or worse, Jude has caught the eye of a member of Prince Cardan’s merry little gang of torturers. Flattered and pleased by the attention though she may be, Jude is who she is, and uses her newfound connections to advance her agenda. But as she becomes more entangled with Prince Cardan and his fellows, Jude can’t help but wonder who’s using who…and if the monsters she knows are preferable to those that have yet to be unmasked.

Brimming with heart-stopping action, courtly and personal intrigues, and characters you love and hate in equal measure, THE CRUEL PRINCE is Holly Black at her finest. The Queen of the Fae is back, y’all.

Have you read THE CRUEL PRINCE? Do you enjoy reading about morally grey characters? Let me know in the comments!

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