Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on January 2 2018
Genres: Young adult, Fantasy
Format: Finished hardcover
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The nitty-gritty: A dangerous and thrilling tale that grips the reader from the first page and never lets up.
If one thing is certain, you can usually count on seasoned and experienced writers to deliver a great story, and I’m happy to report, like so many other reviewers, that The Cruel Prince is a winner. This is my first Holly Black book and now I can’t wait to go back and read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, since I have a copy that’s been gathering dust for several years. I’m also proud of myself for actually reading and reviewing a NON REVIEW BOOK. That’s right, folks. I purchased my copy of The Cruel Prince with cold, hard cash. Let this be the start of a new trend here on the blog!
Just a short recap since you may already be familiar with the story. Jude and Taryn are twin humans who were stolen away as children and taken to live in the land of Elfhame, along with older sister and half-fey Vivienne, and their little brother Oak. Since that violent day—their parents were slaughtered right in front of them by a Vivienne’s father, a fey named Madoc—the children have been living among the Folk and have mostly forgotten about their past lives in the human world. Jude wants nothing more than to be accepted by the Folk, and longs to become a knight in the Royal Court. Taryn’s dream is to fall in love with and marry a fey. But neither dream seems attainable, as Jude and Taryn are complete outsiders, no matter how hard they try to fit in. The fey princes of the royal family in particular are out to get them, and because Jude isn’t interested in backing down from their threats, she winds up with injuries from their bullying almost on a daily basis.
But big change is on the horizon. The old High King is about to step down, and a new king is set to be crowned. But who will the new king be? Alliances, secrets, betrayal and lies all come together, and nothing in Elfhame will ever be the same again.
I flew through this book and didn’t take any notes, so I may not remember all the things I wanted to talk about. But I do want to mention why I loved this book so much. Holly Black can spin a damn tale, people! She pulled me in from the very first page, and the story only continued to get better. You won’t find any gossamer-winged, dainty fairies here. These are hard-core fey who are NOTHING like humans at all. In fact they find most things about humans disgusting or perplexing or simply boring. Because Jude and her sisters live in the land of Elfhame, most of the story takes place there (except for a couple of quick jaunts into the mortal world), and so we get lots of interactions between the fey and humans. One of my favorite scenes (and seriously, I had so many “favorites” that we’d be here all day if I mentioned them all!) was during a banquet when Jude realizes that the delicious-looking food she’s been eating has been glamoured, and in reality it’s rotten and crawling with maggots. Jude is no stranger to the Folk’s ability to glamour their surroundings—and themselves-—but that was the first time it hit me how different the Folk are from humans, how utterly terrifying and alien them seem to be.
Holly Black is not only a master at plot and pacing, but she definitely knows how to develop her characters and the relationships among them. I honestly did not know how things were going to turn out, and I suspected there would be romance involved, but it didn’t go the way I thought it would. When we first meet Prince Cardan, he is cruel beyond belief. He torments and yes, even tortures Jude and Taryn, and so I immediately wrote him off as a possible love interest. But. Then he changed a bit, and we also got a glimpse into the reasons he’s so cruel, and believe it or not, I started to like the guy. Now it’s not all sunshine and roses with him, but he has so many layers that I can’t help but wonder what else we’ll learn about him in the next book.
Some shocking things happen around the two-thirds mark in the story, things that change the course of most of the characters’ lives, but Black isn’t even close to being finished. She takes whatever expectations you may have had and turns them upside down. My mouth was literally hanging open at the end of the story, and I can’t believe how long we’re going to have to wait for the next book!
If you haven’t read The Cruel Prince yet, I recommend you find a copy as soon as possible. This is definitely going to turn out to be one of the best YA books of 2018.