Lately, I haven’t been much of a fantasy reader – especially not a high fantasy reader. But, this summer I’ve been trying to broaden my reading horizons, and this book fit the bill. Obviously the hype for this book has been off the charts – plus the last book I read by Holly Black was phenomenal. With my expectations as high as they were, I’m glad to say that Holly Black has struck it out of the park again with this first entry to her new series.
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.
One of the things that makes me hesitant to read fantasy books is their often overly complex nature. They often boast super complicated plots with a million characters who have very complex relationship dynamics. They also frequently start with multiple chapters of world building and character introductions before even getting to the meat of the story. The Cruel Prince is the exception to all of these rules: it dove headfirst into the plot and wasted no time while introducing the characters. It didn’t dedicate multiple chapters to setting up relationships and the setting – it did its world building and character establishment dynamically while it also told the story.
The plot of this book was layered and nuanced; I was never sure who was on whose side and who would make it out alive. There were real stakes and tension – the plot was never predictable and kept me on my toes for the entire ride. One thing I really valued about this book was that it focused on Jude’s fight to survive and earn her place among the faeries – it was about her coming into her own strengths and using her wits to survive. She didn’t rely on others, she relied solely on herself and was all the more strong for it. Best of all – this book is not a love story. It does feature some chemistry between Jude and the Prince, but it was never the main focus, it just contributed to Jude’s overall character arc and development.
Jude was a fascinating character – she watched her parents get murdered by the man who kidnapped her into the faerie world. She’s moved through all the stages of grief and has since fully embraced her situation. She’s a human in the faerie world: surrounded by gifted individuals who tear her down at every turn. She hasn’t let her physical disadvantages deter her and she’s pushing herself to earn a spot in this foreign world. She survives on her wits and is incredibly resilient (and definitely has a touch of Stockholm syndrome). Jude wasn’t the only complicated character – all of her sisters were given time to grow and develop. They also each had fantastic subplots that contributed to the main story. Prince Cardan was perfect example of the rest of the faeries – he terrorized Jude and the other humans for simply not being faerie. He was cruel, vicious, and calculating, which made it all the more satisfying when him and Jude went toe to toe.
If you’re wanting to test the waters of fantasy – this is your book. It’s an excellent intro to the genre: the series is only a trilogy, the mythology isn’t overwhelming, and it has a foot in the modern world. If you’re already a fantasy fanatic, this book definitely won’t disappoint either – it’s a great summer read with the final book in the series just around the corner. 5/5