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.
The Wicked King is a captivating and intense book and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I’d even go as far to say that I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince. I feel like I’m going to be saying this a lot in this review but everything is heightened in this book and it has all the best parts from The Cruel Prince but crank the notch up by a hundred and you’ll get an idea of this novel. Cardan has been crowned the high king of Elfhame, marking a new era for the kingdom and he has been throwing himself into the role, but not in the way one might think. While he revels and enjoys the power of his new found status, Jude as his second in command or seneschal holds all the cards as Cardan is under her control. Jude only has a year and a day to further her cause, with shifting loyalties, politics as well as the complexities of being mortal in the faerie realm, there’s so much ground covered in this amazing novel.
“Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”
If I liked Jude in The Cruel Prince, which I totally did, then I positively fell in love with her through the course of this book. Jude is a truly ambitious and complex character and I loved that she was able to admit to herself and others that she wants power and takes ownership of this. She is constantly plotting and always tries to stay one step ahead, I credit her because I wouldn’t be able to keep up! I liked that we got to see her interact in such a different way with the council and other characters and have to conduct herself differently too as she is now in a position of power and is able to be forceful and push her own agenda. I also love how her dynamic with Madoc shifted in this novel and how he was forced to have a grudging respect for her.
“Once upon a time, there was a human girl stolen away by faeries, and because of that, she swore to destroy them.”
As well as getting more insight into Judes character, I feel like we got to know Cardan way more in this novel too. While in the first novel we got glimpses of his backstory and how his childhood was devoid of love and care and how this shaped him into the person he is, in this novel we get so much more depth and I loved him so much more. There’s nothing I like better in fiction than a character who has gone through so much and been so guarded as a result, open up and start trusting people and reveal who they really are. I feel like this novel also showed how smart and cunning Cardan is as he learns more tricks from the court of shadows and employs his knowledge of court politics and intrigue. Plus he spends a great deal of time lounging about on his throne, looking ethereal and inhumanly beautiful and that’s a mental image that I’m sure we can all appreciate.
“His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”
I am total and utter trash for the enemies to lovers trope and this affirms it for me 1000 percent. Holly Black has crafted such a believable and intense romance between Jude and Cardan and I was so pleased that we got the ust and actual growth for them in terms of their relationship too. Both of them are so unused to trusting others and in this novel that’s exactly what they have to do and it was so heartwarming not to mention fun as a reader to see them opening themselves up like that. I think that the multiple layers to their relationship; enemies to lovers, king and seneschal, immortal and mortal, each of which add so much. I feel like I could definitely relate to Jude and Cardans dilemma here, oh the desire for love but also the mortifying ideal of being known, you know?
“And the single last thing in my head: that I like him better than I’ve ever liked anyone and that of all the things he’s ever done to me, making me like him so much is by far the worst.”
I appreciated that we got to see the side characters involved in more action in this novel including The Bomb, The Roach and The Ghost who are such interesting characters in their own right. I liked the small bits of exposition we got about them and suffice to say there was a lot I didn’t expect to happen which totally happened. I also liked that we got to read about Vivi, her girlfriend Heather and Oaks life in the human world and this gave some lightness and humour which I really enjoyed. It’s always funny reading characters adapt to a new environment, especially in this case when the new environment is the world we live in, seeing it from a outside perspective.
Overall, The Wicked King is a great addition to this series and one of my favourite books now, I think the ending leaves off on such a delicious cliffhanger, I can’t wait to read the final instalment Queen of Nothing and see what’s next for Jude and Cardan and the fate of Elfhame.
Until next time,