Another book from faerie queen Holly Black- the first in a series- and she definitely delivers, with an exciting YA book with a heroine that kicks serious ass, who I absolutely love. I’ve not been this excited about a YA book for a while!
The Cruel Prince serves up romance, nastiness, fairies, family drama and betrayal in one massive, twisting plot that balances all the elements pretty much perfectly. It starts off with a murder: twin sisters Jude and Taryn’s parents are brutally killed, and they are spirited to the faerie kingdom by their murderer, Redcap Madoc. Ten years later, they’re still living in Faerie- basically adopted by Madoc- and all three are struggling to fit in. Taryn wants nothing more than to marry into Faerie; Vivienne wants to escape to the human world, and Jude is trying to find her place as a mortal in the cruel, beautiful world she lives in.
So, I’ve read my fair share of sub-par faerie novels over the years, but Holly Black creates a world that is rich, detailed and with its own set of rules that are easy to understand. Everything’s bursting with detail and we get a good sense of the hierarchy of the kingdoms, and Jude and Taryn’s place in it, alongside the thousands of different fey that live in the kingdom. It’s some pretty excellent worldbuilding: I just wanted to dive right into the book and explore.
The characters, too: man, Jude is a fantastic character! Like the best ones, she’s flawed. She’s angry at her own powerlessness within the kingdom- and given the hefty amount of bullying we see her experience at the start of the book, you get angry right alongside her. She’s complex, layered and with one hell of a character development over the course of the novel: I was hooked just because I wanted to know what was going to happen to her next. The others are just as interesting: watching Jude spar with her sister Taryn, and Vivienne wrestle with her desire to leave Faerie, made for countless subplots that invested you in pretty much every character.
Nothing is as it seems, here: likeable characters become unlikeable, there are sudden, shocking betrayals and plot twists, romance is exposed, and Cardan, the Cruel Prince, might not even be as cruel as he seems. The plot races along: there’s never a dull moment, and Jude’s attempts to figure out where she belongs in the world, and prove her place among the Fey, are interesting, exciting and take her into some pretty murky moral ground.
There are some tropes here too, but Black makes them feel fresh and exciting- it’s similar to Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series in that sense- and the escalation to the book’s climax is exciting.
So now I’m waiting for the next installment of the series. It’s exciting, engaging and the ending leaves you desperate to find out what happens next. Overall, it’s an excellent book: hats off! For fantasy lovers, here’s your next fix.
Book cover taken from Goodreads.