The Wicked King by Holly Black | Spoilery Book Review

The folk of the air #2, the sequel to The Cruel Prince

Pages: 340

Genre: young adult fantasy


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.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

Usually I try to keep reviews with minimal important spoilers for plot points. This review is filled with spoilers, because it’s a sequel and I find it nearly impossible to discuss it without them. Here’s your warning.

I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. On one side I really like Jude as a character, but she didn’t feel consistent through the book. The plot also felt a bit too straight-forward compared to the first book. The worst offender is the world-building, which feels more like a sliver of “A court of thorns and roses” by Sarah J. Mavas, without the awesomeness that is politics of separate courts and Velaris, than actually made by Holly Black, at this point.

The romance. It’s there through the whole book, constantly being teased, the chemistry is there, but definitely with some weird power and trust dynamic that Jude and Cardan had to figure out. I really like the enemies to lovers storyline in general. In this book I felt it at points were too much spelled out, instead of like convincing me they were attracted to each other. The he hates you and so he loves you more for it felt too artificial.

The ending. From reading other reviews, I think this is what seals the deal for those who really like this book. I saw the ending coming too early. I didn’t see every twist of it, like the Ghost, which was nice. This might be because of my view of the romance all along and how I really didn’t trust the character that is Cardan would to give up an ounce of power willingly. The moment Jude gave up her control of him, I threw my hands up in the air in defeat. So I definitely had interest in which way it would go, if she would go in the trap. The someone you trust have already betrayed you was too much of a hint as well.

The characters. I love characters, especially protagonists, that aren’t just good. It was what made me love the first book. I felt Jude was inconsistent in this sequel, because the sides of her that the plot needs are what is played up in each scene. Like the girl is suddenly a master tactic, then her self-esteem is low, then she needs to be something else for the chemistry to Cardan to work, then she needs to order him around and at the same time feel low and human enough that she would stay and get ridiculed. A character can of course change roles, but it got to be a problem for me. Again it comes down to authors like Sarah J. Maas who has done this “elf pretend they’re evil” thing so much better already. There were opportunities I wish the book would’ve taken instead, roads it went down in the first book, like exploring struggles related to Jude going darker and not wanting to give up power, instead of her talking scared to herself about it. It just further shows the different view she has of herself and the master-mind position the others are constanly giving her in a way that doesn’t make sense.

I really did like one thing in particular – Jude having second thoughts about Oak and just the dilemma of shielding a child. Wondering if that makes the child more likely to grow up less empathic or not understanding consequences. Or like Jude puts it: “Now growing used to sugary cereal and a life without treachery.”

In general it seemed like this book lacked smooth transitions through plot points and could’ve had more well-rounded characters and world with more editing and thought put into it. Especially if like more place was given to exploring moral dilemmas, or going down the road of Jude thinking in accordance with her more ruthless actions, turning a bit darker for those she loved or to protect Oak. I feel like Holly Black usually has a high quality when it comes to characters and world-building, so when I wasn’t quite feeling the plot, these things started to annoy me.

My feelings reading this book: it was entertaining, but also annoying at points, could’ve been done better

Would recommend it if you liked “The cruel prince”, but be aware that it might not do the same things for you and go into it with lower expectations.

6 thoughts on “The Wicked King by Holly Black | Spoilery Book Review

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