Rating: 5/5 Swords
WARNING: Contains Mild Spoilers
The Cruel Prince is a fantasy novel written by Holly Black that has been on my TBR list since it came out. The title alone is enough to cause intrigue, and then there was so much hype about it. One of my best friends that read it far before me threatened to shun me if I didn’t read it as soon as I got the chance.
Holly Black is the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. A lot of you may have read or at least heard about this middle-grade series. I had to read the entire series when I was in a book club and then do a book series vs. movie comparison. The Spiderwick Chronicles were strange and a bit dark, fascinating but sometimes slow. I remember enjoying them, but I was interested to see how Holly Black wrote a YA novel. It may be that I just was completely ignorant of her name in the YA book world, but the only books I could put her name by were The Spiderwick Chronicles. And after all the hype from people that read and loved the book and then with not-so-gentle nudging from my dear friend, I picked it up from the library and proceeded to confiscate it for a month.
So, here I am – late to The Cruel Prince party. BUT. I have read it, and it deserves like a 5000/5 Swords rating.
The Cruel Prince follows the story of Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister Vivienne. The three are taken from the normal world and transported to a fairy world after Vivienne’s biological fairy dad murders their mortal parents since his wife was unfaithful to him. (It’s already drawn you in, hasn’t it?) While Vivi absolutely despises the fairy world and her biological father, Taryn and Jude strive to make a life for themselves among the “fey” (fairies) since they are too young to remember much about their lives in the normal, mortal world.
There are two ways to make a living in the world of the fey – one is to marry a fey, and the other is to be granted knighthood in one of the royal fey courts. Taryn wants the former, which is considered a much nobler idea for someone with a human status, especially since the fey don’t like humans to be in positions of dominance over them. However, Jude wants the latter, and because she wants the latter, she starts to create a rift between her and her adoptive father, her and her sisters, and she starts to make her relationships with the fey even worse.
Part of being the adopted human children of a fairy general means that Taryn and Jude are treated like members of the fey, if only by their adopted father, instead of like the usual mortal slaves that members of the fey keep around. They have to participate in classes alongside the fey, and in their classes is a fearsome group of fey that Jude loves to hate: Valerian, Locke, Nicasia, and, worst of all, young Prince Cardan.
Throughout the book, Valerian, Nicasia, and Prince Cardan mock Jude and Taryn, and while Taryn knows that it’s better to take whatever they throw at them, Jude believes that it’s better to fight back. This not only leads to some heavy punishments for her, but it also leads to trouble for Taryn as well. The only member of the group that is good is Locke, and soon he begins a whirlwind romance with Jude that gives her more strength to fight the other members of the group, as well as the self-confidence that, while she may not be as beautiful or live as long as one of the fey, she still matters. She is more than dirt or clay, as the fey often like to call mortals.
When Jude’s hopes of knighthood are thwarted while Taryn’s hopes of getting engaged to a fey are rewarded, Jude begins to wonder if she will ever have be able to have her own dreams. Taryn is begging her to stop with the nonsense of knighthood while Vivienne is begging her to return to the mortal world with her and hide out, but Jude wants to be more. She wants to beat Prince Cardan and his entorauge. She wants to become something they fear – something that has power over them. And after competing in a dueling match in front of the royal family, one of the fairy princes, Prince Dain, gives her that chance.
It is not knighthood, at least not yet. But it is swearing to secretly serve him and his personal court by becoming his spy, a member of his secret Court of Shadows. Jude is thrilled to have power, even if it has to be kept secret for awhile.
But the more Jude spies and the more Jude learns, the more she realizes that there are dangerous powers at work in the royal fey courts. Her adoptive father has motives that even she didn’t see coming. And perhaps, just perhaps, the people she believes are her friends and the people she sees as her enemies are not what they seem at all.
There is so many things about this book that I loved, and I cannot recommend it enough. Anti-hero character types (for those of you that may not know, this just means that they make really poor decisions 90% of the time but yet they’re not evil) are fast becoming my favorites. The plot of this story was incredibly fast-paced, and none of the chapters were super long so it was easy to read a lot in one sitting. Holly Black expertly wove in plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and her characters are flawless. There are characters you love that you grow to hate, and characters you hate that you grow to love. Holly Black works in a little magic of her own in this masterpiece of a book.
And best news of all – the sequel to this stunning book comes out on January 8th, 2019!!!
So *hint hint*, now would be the perfect time to read this! What are you waiting for?