The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air, #1
Pages: 384
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 2nd 2017

      “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.

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“I thought I was supposed to be good and follow the rules…But I am done with being weak. I am done with being good. I think I am going to be something else.”

Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince features a complex heroine who is forced to become more ruthless than the monsters who surround her in order to survive. Jude was taken from the human world along with her sisters when she was a child and has grown up under the watchful eye of Madoc, the High King of Elfhame’s powerful general. As a mortal, Jude will never truly belong in the Faerie realm, but she has been so altered by its cruelty and majesty, that returning to the human world is unthinkable. Jude must find a way to earn her place in the High Court, to ensure her own safety and protection for those she cares about. But sparring with a foe who is stronger and more powerful than she will ever be will push Jude to her limits and could turn her into something even more terrible than than the Fae themselves.

Jude was such an interesting character in that she never wanted to embrace her humanity, but instead understood that she had to rid herself of her very human weaknesses in order to gain any kind of footing in the Faerie world. Her relationship with this world is rooted in opposing emotions. She hates these immortal beings for taking away her parents, for their cruelty, and the alienation she feels being a part of their world but not of it. But on the other hand, she has found a home in this strange and inhuman world. She admires their strength, ruthlessness, and power. Jude longs for the kind of power that no mortal has ever been granted. For the Faeries, mortal are playthings. There to amuse or serve them one minute and then to be discarded the next. It is for this reason that Jude is able to move undetected among them, it’s why her defiance is so provoking to those with more power, and why, though improbably, Jude finds a way to shape not just her own story but those around her.

I loved all the different relationships Jude has with each member of her family. Her twin sister Taryn very much wants to embrace the Faerie world, but in a very human way. She ultimate believes love will be her protection. She is everything that Jude might have been if she hadn’t been consumed by her own ambition. Jude’s older sister Vivi is half-Faerie and half-human. She longs to return to the human world where she has fallen in love with a human girl. Vivi hates her father Madoc for shattering her world and perhaps blames him for her sisters’ love for the Faerie realm. As far as side characters go, I thought Vivi was the most interesting and deserved more page time. For Jude, Madoc has always represented the best and worst part of the Faerie world. He murdered her parents, but has also shown her and her sisters a great deal of affection. He pushes her, but in many ways, also hold her back.

Making these vicious creatures romantic characters is always tricky. Faeries are inherently cruel and selfish. After finishing this first installment, I wonder if there is any goodness to be found in these creatures that you could call redeeming or if their nature is such that the morality we apply to human characters cannot be applied to them. It is for this reason that I found it hard to root for certain characters. Though it is revealed later that the motives of some may not be solely rooted in hatred, I still found it hard to forget the malice shown to the protagonist. I understood more what a Faerie might see in Jude in that she finds a way to overcome her own weaknesses despite her fragility as a mortal, but couldn’t quite see what Jude would see in someone who has been a thorn in her side. Still, I’m curious to see where the author decides to take a certain relationship.

Overall, Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince was a fascinating read that had me racing to the end with its startling conclusion.

4/5

★★★★

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22 thoughts on “The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

  1. I always thought fairies were supposed to be cute or sweet or really chill and in touch with nature. But then I started watching Guillermo del Toro movies. His fairies will EAT YOUR BONES. They will pick your skin clean while you’re still alive. They will DESTROY you. Holy crap, fairies are horrible and scary in old fairy tales!! It sounds like this book leans more toward scary fairy instead of pleasant forest fairy.

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  3. I looooved this book so much, omg. Holly Black is a master of creating complex, intriguing, morally gray characters, as well as gorgeous slash frightening settings. I really love Jude – and I full-heartedly hope she’ll be happy by the end of the series. I’m not sure if you were hinting at Cardan in your review at a certain part, but if yes – I relate. I have so many conflicted feelings about him, and wow, I’m hoping we’ll learn more about him in the sequel, but, at the same time, I am totally NOT shipping him with Jude. Plus, I don’t think what we learnt about his life at home redeems him… I also read a teaser from the sequel, and I’m… not happy. I DON’T WANT TO SEE JUDE SUFFER, OK. Great review! 🙂

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    • I loved how complex Jude was and yes, I was talking about Cardan. I just don’t know what to do with the fae in general. Do I hold them to human standards or do I judge them on a whole other level? I haven’t quite decide on Cardan, but I do need to see more before any shipping happens. Thank you!

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