The Cruel Prince by Holly Black | Review

Pages: 380

Genre: fantasy

“I don’t think he realizes just how angry I am or how good it feels, for once, to give up on regrets.”

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At seven years old Jude is watching her parents getting murdered and is, along with her two sisters, kidnapped by the murderer Madoc to live in the High Court of Faerie. At seventeen she’s used to the life among the faeries, the murderer is also the fairy father of her half-sister Vivi and he’s provided for them, even if they don’t fit in. Some fairies enjoys pointing it out, especially a group of friends with prince Cardan in the middle of them. Jude wants to claim her place in the Court, but the intrigues are bigger than imagined and as a human she needs to become the best. Soon they’re on the brink of bloodshed and civil war.


My thoughts


Everyone down to little kid Oak is morally grey, even Jude comments on it. They’re all traumatized, it seems like, for different reasons. Jude and her sisters watched their parents get murdered by the Madoc, which they currently live with and has a father role for them. But the Faerie Court is also troubled by violence and conflicts and the faeries are affected as well. But that isn’t used as excuse, which was great, because after this plot there is none.

The character development was above all hope. Here you got dimensional, untypical characters. It’s also not a typical young adult fantasy, I wouldn’t even call it ya, because there’s so much blood and civil war. I did not expect it, but I’m definitely here for it. It still has the obvious heroine Jude, but even kids are involved in the intrigues to get to power. I love Jude, she’s terrifying and a new favourite character. Someone seems to think of her as unlikable, but you don’t have to agree with her decisions, or any character’s, to think they’re well-written and awesome. What a darling.

“Little did Prince Dain know that my real skill lies in pissing people off.”

Bullying was real problem and something Jude had to deal with. It’s a good thing to portray, it also gave some legitimacy to Jude and the idea that she could fight the prince and his friends, but at a cost. She could tell her “father” Madoc and send him at them, but blood would be spilled and she would risk chaos. And later she has to get to know them as people, and they her, as the plot unfolds and it’s still not a redemption story.

“There is a pleasure in being with them,” he says. “Taking what we wish, indulging in every terrible thought. There’s safety in being awful.”

It’s a book playing with power dynamics and politics, everyone wants to gain power and it’s a conflict towards who will take the throne. It shows how there’s different ways to wield power, where the strongest isn’t necessarily the most powerful. I like how Jude needs to be smart as an underdog in that struggle, and the moral dilemmas she has at the beginning, but there’s also a few times too many that the solutions fall into her hands too easily.

“She’s looking around the forest, as though if she can prove it isn’t magic, then nothing else is, either. Which is stupid. All forests are magic.”

– more negative thoughts – 

  • Sister relationship between the twins Taryn and Jude was pretty much sacrificed for the sake of the plot. At the same time it’s understandable, if a bit predictable.
  • Sometimes I wonder if a book or tv series is smart or if it’s “fake smart”, where the writer is throwing something in your face to distract you, instead of having an actual twist or clever plot. I think this book had both, but it was apparant that it sometimes relied too much on diverting focus with romance and side quests, then tying it back in. I also think that’s the reason of a complaint I’ve seen from others –
  • Lack of structure in the story. Personally I usually don’t have a problem with this. But it made the book longer than needed to, with a lot of action in some parts and long stretches with planning and trying to distract the reader, as mentioned above.
  • I know Holly Black has a long history with faeries, but this book seemed different than the rest. It felt more Cassandra Clare inspired, and actually less unique than usual in how the world and its creatures are like. The world-building in general seemed bad, and lacking.

– all in all –

If there’s something I haven’t said enough in this review, it’s how great I think Holly Black’s books are. She writes fantasy and young adult books incredibly well in that she follows trends, but in her own way. That is maybe some of what this book lacked, though the plot was enjoyable and the whole book overall. Would recommend it if you’re looking for a character-driven story, with a good plot.

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– a few more thoughts *spoilers below* –

Usually these stories start with Oak having to grow up as fairy in the human world and then has to go to faerie land and win back the throne. This story feels like the prequel of something like that, even if I hope that’s not the direction the sequel is going. It made it a bit different. Also I could see Locke’s play a long time, which made that whole part boring.



6 thoughts on “The Cruel Prince by Holly Black | Review

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