“It’s like fighting, except what we’re fighting for is to crawl inside each other’s skin.”
For the longest time, I avoided Holly Black’s book. I don’t have any reason for that. None at all. But I had a strong feeling that I would dislike her books and I kept ignoring all the praise they were getting. And when the HUGE (and I mean, huge) buzz and adoration for The Cruel Prince started I decided that I won’t read it. The main reason (other than me being ridiculous) was that I did not want to read a YA book about fae, because I was worried that it would be like Sarah J. Maas’ brand of fae, and I can’t deal with that. However, as it always happens, the fandom convinced me to read this. All the fanart for this series is breathtaking, and it promised a hate-to-love romance, and we all know how weak I am for that. Once again, fandom: 1, me: 0 (I have previously discussed how fandom and online communities influence my reading in depth). So let’s talk about how I was wrong and this book was great.
The Cruel Prince follows Jude, whose parents were killed when she was seven, after which she was whisked away to the land of Faerie with her two sisters. Now, ten years later, Jude is trying to fit in, which is hard because she is a mortal and the fae are cruel. But the thing is – maybe Jude can become even crueler as she becomes entangled in court politics and machinations.
I really, really loved all of the characters, but especially Jude. She quickly became a really wonderful driving force for the story and I really love her. She is a survivor and Holly Black really plays well into the whole mortal-fae dynamic. Jude has no power, so she has to rely on her wits and deceit and lies and I really liked how that was handled. Moreover, Jude doesn’t feel at home in faerie, or in the mortal world and I loved seeing her make a place of her own and for herself and just carve out her own path. I literally cannot wait to read more of her, she was a fantastic character.
I also enjoyed all the other characters. I think Holly Black managed to give enough depth to almost every character. I loved everyone in the Court of Shadows and I cannot wait to see more of them. I liked the villains (although, to be fair, everyone’s a villain) and I liked how many layers there were to all of the characters.
Cardan is the one that is difficult for me. I really like his character, but he is awful. Absolutely awful. And I don’t think we got enough of him in this first book, so I am looking forward to seeing how his character develops in the future.
I absolutely loved the plot of this book. While it wasn’t mind bending or unpredictable, it relied heavily on court politics and machinations and that’s a thing I really love. I like how tricky the faeries are, I love that they can’t lie, so they scheme so much, and that allows for a really great plot set up in the faerie court. I loved seeing the tension between the heirs for the crown and how they fought with every means necessary for power. It was just really well done.
While I don’t think the world building in this is great, I do love how good Holly Black is at creating a sense of place. The world of faerie isn’t written in a complex or detailed way, but it’s written really well. The atmosphere is really amazing and dark and lush, and I really loved the backdrop that was created for the book. It’s an immersive novel and I was always completely in the story, so I really enjoyed that.
I had some issues with this book, which led to me not rating this 5 stars and being completely in love with it.
My main issue is with Cardan. I think he is an inconsistent character and I don’t think that his and Jude’s dynamic is handled well. He is absolutely awful to her, and in the first part of the novel, there wasn’t anything about him to love. It did not feel like the kind of hate that was intriguing or the kind of tension that you could enjoy, it was just bad and he was awful. And then things happen, and there’s like an almost instant switch in which we can see that he actually likes Jude. Their dynamic becomes entirely different and there’s nothing that happens that can justify such an abrupt switch. But after that switch, their dynamic becomes the one I love – with banter and tension and I was living for it. But the issue of the power imbalance remains. Even when Jude has the upper hand, it always seems like Cardan has more power, and that leads to a slightly problematic dynamic. I feel like that needs to be acknowledged because this relationship is basically based on a premise that a boy likes a girl and hence he is mean to her. With that being said, and with being fully aware of those problems, I still am living for their dynamic and can’t wait for more of it in the second book.
And I also had some other minor issues. For example, there’s one point when Jude talks to the reader directly, which makes no sense and it’s annoying. The story and the narrative get fumbled a bit and it’s not always clear how we got from point A to point B. So the story isn’t really that well grounded at all times. That’s just me being nitpicky, but it did lower my enjoyment slightly.
I really loved this. The characters are amazing and the plot is really interesting. There’s a lot of great dynamics and I really can’t wait to see what happens next. I did have some issues with it, but I would still wholeheartedly recommend this one.
Final verdict: 4 stars
Dark, Twisty and Exciting
I would love to hear from you! Have you read this one or do you have plans to read it? Thoughts? Are you excited for The Wicked King? Let me know in the comments!
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