Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air, #2
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 8th 2019
“You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.”
“I hope it unnerves them to know I am lying.
After all, if the insult to me is pointing out that I am mortal, then this is my riposte: I live here, too, and I know the rules. Perhaps I even know them better than you since you were born into them, but I had to learn.”
The Wicked King, Holly Black’s highly-anticipated sequel to The Cruel Prince, is as intoxicating and heart-stopping as its predecessor as Jude tries to hold on to power in a world that makes games out of crushing mortals. Five months have passed since the end of The Cruel Prince. As Cardan, the new High King of Elfhame, sits on the throne, his subjects are unaware that it is Jude, a mortal girl who grew up in Faerie, pulling the stings, having orchestrated both his crowing and his vow to obey her every command. But with such a young ruler on the thrown and his older brother Balekin in prison, there are those in Faerie who believe a weak king and an alternate heir leaves room for another coup. Jude must find a way to counter the machinations of those hoping for a power grab while also keeping a vexing, yet alluring Cardan in check. With little allies on her side, Jude is tested at every turn and when she discovers someone in her confidence has betrayed her, it becomes even more imperative that she find a way to hold on to power.
Faerie is a world built on deceit. The Folk cannot lie, but they can manipulate, they can twist the truth and hide their true motivations. Jude has grown up in this world and has had to figure out how to survive when every Fae sees her as weak and vulnerable. She has become a force to be reckon. In this sequel, I loved seeing the shift in her relationship with Madoc, her ‘adoptive’ father. He raised Jude and Taryn to look out for themselves in this world of Fae, but he never quite imagined that either would grow up to influence his world in such a dramatic way. Madoc, like most Fae, puts his own desires first, but since these often clash with Jude’s own wishes, it pits them against one another and I love that they both manage to push the other to their limits. I also really enjoyed Jude’s shifting relationship with Cardan. Black writes the Folk in such a way that the reader is forced, like Jude, to sift through words and actions in order to find the truth underneath. There’s always another layer to a character that I thought I had figured out. After this novel, I feel like I have a better understanding of who Cardan is and what his motivations are. Jude and Cardan’s relationship is fraught with mutual contempt, but also a fascination with one another. In this second book, both take steps to understanding each other better and I see so much potential for an alliance between the two built on actual trust if they could only get there.
One of my favorite things about The Folk of the Air series is how Black continues to raise the stakes. Jude was able to manipulate Cardan in order to put him on the thrown instead of her little brother Oak, but in this novel, she doesn’t have an opportunity to rest. Power is fleeting in the Faerie world, especially for those who can’t stay vigilant. Jude is pushed physically, emotionally, and mentally in The Wicked King. She succeeds only when she is able to stay several steps ahead, but there is always the possibility that as a mortal, she is ill-equipped to the task. Female characters who want power for power’s sake are few and far between in fiction, so it’s refreshing to get a character like Jude whose motivation is to gain as much power as possible and who can’t help but delight in her newfound authority. Also there is something truly satisfying about seeing Jude, a mortal girl, get the best of these mythical beings.
Holly Black’s The Wicked King is a sequel that will no doubt delight fans of the first novel, its twists will keep readers on their toes, and its ending will have them begging for the next installment.