Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
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.
Prior to reading The Cruel Prince, I saw so much about it via book twitter, book blogs and booktube that I knew I just had to see what all the hype was about and read these books! The Cruel Prince is the first instalment in The Folk of Air trilogy and it was every bit the glorious , thrilling and dark fairy tale-esque story I never knew I needed in my life. It had politics, court intrigue, betrayal, magic, enemies to lovers romance and lush description to boot, all of which I love and explains why I devoured this book so quickly.
The novel begins as it means to go on, with a thrill and the darker side of life, as it opens with young Jude and her sisters – Taryn and Vivian- witness the brutal murder of their parents at the hands of a mysterious stranger. After this, the stranger instructs them to pack their belongings then takes them to the land of Faerie, an enchanting but dangerous world of blood debts, barters, wiles and tricks. As Jude grows up she holds on to a dream of knighthood and the mortal world gets more distant and alien. Eventually she will do whatever it takes to stay in Faerie, getting embroiled in the intrigue and plots of court life, all the while drawing the attention of the wicked Prince Cardan…
I love any stories surrounding ‘the fair folk’ or ‘fae’ and The Cruel Prince plays on all the best and darkest parts of the existing folklore while also being unique and establishing it’s own aesthetic. Holly Black does such a great job of bringing Elfhame to life in a variety of ways. I loved her lavish descriptions of the endless underground rooms, elaborate ballgowns and jewellery and the charmed objects which serve so many different purposes. I also loved that the revelry and fun of this world was entwined with a darker and more sinister edge which keeps the characters and in turn the reader on their toes. For instance, as mortals in Elfhame, Jude and her twin sister Taryn must always be wary of the folk and the faerie fruit, as once you consume it, a mortal will crave it, is open to suggestion and do anything to get more.
As I mentioned before, prior to reading I heard so much about this book and especially the two main characters; Jude and Cardan. I loved how headstrong and passionate Jude was and how she was ruthless and ambitious when she realised her true power and what she can achieve. I admire that she is so strong and skilled with a sword as well because I definitely wouldn’t be able to do the same, no matter how much training I got! I also appreciated that as much as she is a badass warrior and schemer, she also has a heart and shows her care for her family, especially her twin Taryn and her younger brother Oak, even if this doesn’t always in outward displays of affection.
Cardan on the other hand is as capricious and cruel as they come, the youngest prince in the royal family, whose behaviour has been left unchecked and unfettered. Due to his royal status and having so much power, he is used to getting his own way but when Jude refuses to do that and fights back, he begins antagonising her and begins a series of cruel tricks against her. Although Cardan did irritate me a lot at the start, as the story goes on we get to learn more about him and realise that beneath his snarky exterior he isn’t all bad. I thought the slow reveals about his childhood and the abuse he suffered as a child were so sad and explains so much about his behaviour.
One character I just couldn’t stand for some reason, was Taryn, Judes twin sister. I appreciated that she was on a different path from Jude and she wanted to fall in love and have an adventure of sorts, but I just didn’t appreciate or understand her as a character. I just really disliked that she was so antagonistic towards Jude most of the time and her whole ‘arc’ in the latter half of the book was so bizarre. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but if I was Jude, I would not want a sister like Taryn. Perhaps her character will have more depth in the next book or some explanation behind her decisions because at this point I’m done with her.
A central feature within the novel and a huge draw for me was the enemies to lovers story between Jude and Cardan. I loved the slow development of the relationship and how they both can’t help but be drawn to each other despite all the reasons why they don’t work. It’s deliciously angsty and I’m certain many readers will enjoy their snappy exchanges and battle of wits. Plus there’s a lot of unresolved tension and I was so here for it!
Overall, The Cruel Prince is a truly magical and exciting book, I can’t wait to read the next instalment in the series as Black leaves us on such an expectant and suspenseful note so I can’t wait to read how this all plays out. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of darker fairytales and lovers of folk tales alike. It’s a total gem.
Until next time,