Holly Black has long been a stand out in young adult fantasy – she writes complex and interesting stories with unique prose and nearly unparalleled world building skills. When you pick up one of her series, it’s nearly impossible to focus on anything else until you’ve read all the books and have seen how the story ends – such is the case with The Wicked King, the second book in The Folk of the Air series.
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself that strong.
Jude 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 biddable. 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 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 suffered slightly from the sequel curse: the sequel is never as good as the original. The Wicked King had big boots to fill after the amazing start to the series – it was impossible to not compare the two. In this case – I think the book suffered a bit for an over abundance of politics – while the faerie courts’ political climate was fascinating, it got a bit dry after a while.
The politics also struck me as a bit unbelievable at times – Jude made it out of situations that she really shouldn’t have, as a human around faeries. I think her luck was just a little too strong, and after the faeries were set up as an overly cunning and tricky race, it was hard to believe Jude could outsmart them as often as she did.
One thing that was definitely right about this book was the relationship between Cardan and Jude – the tension and angst were both off the charts, and so was the chemistry. I loved reading about these two lowkey longing for each other while also antagonizing each other. These two are a total blast and definitely one of my favorite YA fantasy couples.
Overall, The Wicked King wasn’t quite as good as The Cruel Prince, but it does a great job of setting up one hell of a finale to this trilogy. If you’re looking for other YA fantasy books to read, check out Sorcery of Thorns and Among the Beasts and Briars. 4/5