“What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Genre: Young adult fantasy, dark fantasy
Published by Little Brown and Company, 2018
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Indiana
Re-readability: This would make for a good reread if you really enjoy the world of Faerie.
Synopsis from the publisher:
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.
The world building in this dark and twisted fantasy was intriguing and kept me engaged, even when the plot didn’t. The book starts off with a bang; with the gruesome deaths of Jude’s parents and her journey to Faerie. From there, we learn about the strange magic of the creatures living in the realm; magic that can trick humans into doing just about anything.
As Jude tries to find her place in the faerie world, a world which she feels she doesn’t belong to, she finds sporadic purpose in spying for one of the realm’s princes. She gets wrapped up in political schemes and a romantic relationship that’s very clearly twisted. Eventually, she’s able to create a few schemes of her own, taking control not only of her destiny but that of Faerieland, only things don’t quite turn out as she hoped.
I struggled with Jude’s character; she always seemed just out of focus. Since the story is told from her perspective, the novel wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. It could also be because I read How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories first and loved the storytelling, which has a much more stripped down, fairytale style writing. It covered some of the same ground as The Cruel Prince so there’s a chance I just ruined The Cruel Prince for myself by reading it first.
I read reviews of the second and third books in this series and it seems like the storyline gets better. So I’m thinking about picking up the other two. Has anyone else read this series? Would you recommend sticking with it?
I just finished The Cruel Prince as well! I also happened to enjoy the worldbuilding and struggle with the characters––except my sticking point was Cardan, who felt sort of vague to me? I’m hoping I get a clearer picture of what makes him tick in the rest of the series, which I think I’m going to stick with, if only because I have a friend who dearly loves these books and will never let me live it down if I don’t.