Synopsis: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Reading The Cruel Prince left me feeling conflicted, a want for love. So many friends love this book, my sister adores Holly Black, this seemed like a shoo-in. I should’ve loved this- but I just didn’t.
This had so many of my favorite things in it, morally grey characters, a compelling fantasy world, sibling dynamics.
But let’s talk about why this kinda didn’t work for me.
For those who have read it, you’ll know this book opens with a murder. Jude, Taryn, and Vivienne have lived in the human world, unbeknownst to the world of the Fae. Until one fateful day, when they are barely children, that Madoc, a general of the Fae, massacres their human parents, and drags them to Fairyland, where they are planned to spend the rest of their days.
From here, they all take different forms of action.
Jude is on a mission, one to become fae herself. She’s jealous that they can be crueler, that fact they would never let her forget. She is human. All she wants to do is prove that she can be worse than they are. Then she thinks, she’ll gain their respect.
Oh man, I have so many feelings about Jude. She’s just, so awful, She’s never happy, her whole life has been one long attempt at proving herself, to prove she can be meaner, and worse. And just wow. I love her so much, but I need to point out certain inconsistencies.
She watched her parents get brutally murdered, as a young girl, which should have been very traumatic for her: and yet, it’s barely brought up. Right off the bat, she’s entering a tournament, but we take no time at all to talk about how that scarred her emotionally?
Cardan is The Cruel Prince. He’s the worst of the fae, the one who bullies Jude the most, the one who seeks to make her life a living hell. Upon meeting him, I had mixed feelings, but upon finding out his back story, and seeing how his life had played out, I believe he is the most developed character in this book. His behavior makes sense, and I’m very interested to see where he goes in book two.
But Cardan just deserves to be swaddled in warm blankets and fed chocolate mocha biscotti and soaked in a hot bath with a lemon-vanilla bath bomb. And yes I’ve thought about this extensively.
Vivienne is half-fae and half-human, the product of Madoc shacking up with their mother, until she leaves him, in which bad things ensue but that’s beside the point.
What all can I say about Vivi? She’s just, the most unproblematic character in this book. All she deserves is happiness with her pink-haired girlfriend. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter!
Taryn is the worst character. Like, she’s just so mean. And not in a fun way. She jeopardizes Jude’s safety and just wants a man so she can blend in. She’s also so shady and just! I ship her with death so hard! Forget Jude and Cardan I think Taryn x Death is a better ship.
I honestly think this book just isn’t for me. The writing just didn’t jive with me. Not to say Holly Black’s prose is bad, I just don’t think it flows right for me as a reader. It felt boring at parts, and for a book that’s not even 400 pages, I feel that it took me a while to read.
With that being said, however, I do think this book had its high points, and I’m curious to read The Wicked King!