Four stars for a mercifully fresh YA fantasy that kept me always uncertain and uncomfortable, usually (but not always) in a good way.

“Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.”

“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.”

(Publisher synopsis via Goodreads)

AmazonBarnes and NobleIndiebound

Yes, I know I am massively late to the party. Leave me alone. I had a lot of catching-up to do on the YA fantasy front.

I’ve read so much recent YA fantasy that I’ve gotten extremely easy to please. If you don’t start with a scrappy peasant girl being thrust into the midst of brewing conflict with the oppressive ruling class, I am already on your side.

This is a take on the portal fantasy that I’ve never seen before. The “changeling” myth is old as dirt, of course, but I’ve never seen it used quite like this in YA. It’s tremendously satisfying for me–I absolutely loved getting all invested in the faerie court intrigue one chapter and heading to a shopping mall the next.

I realize this is not a groundbreaking observation, but the B&N edition is beyond gorgeous.

This book was made to be fangirled about, and I totally get the hype. I love the world. I love Jude. I love her spunk and deep humanity and flaws and ambition and ferocity. I love her hair and her knife.

I was also intrigued by Jude’s relationships with her family, especially her father. I haven’t seen a dynamic quite like the tension and trust between Jude and Madoc before, and I hope it gets lots more attention in the next book. Jude’s relationship with her little half-brother, Oak, is also an interesting thing. Sweet and frustrating and never simple.

The big draw for this book, of course, is the Jude/Cardan sexual tension extravaganza. And wow. I think I singed my fingers reading some of that. It’s a strange dynamic that kept me guessing… and nervous. Nervous for Jude for good story reasons, but also nervous that the book was going to get very ugly very fast. Without spoiling too much (although let’s be real, you’ve seen the fanart unless you’re living under a rock) I’ll say that when the relationship crosses into romantic territory, it dances along lines of prudence and sanity and consent. I’m going into the second book with raised eyebrows… YA fantasy has a bad track record of romanticizing abusive relationships under the guise of “damaged bad boys” and “dark fantasy.”

I picked up the Barnes and Noble edition of The Wicked King during the half-off sale last month (the black one… so prettyyyyy…) and it’s on deck. I can’t wait!

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black”

  1. I feel ya on the “damaged bad boy” trope and I think this book hits it hard. I honestly don’t understand why everyone seems to want Jude and Cardan to be a thing because he clearly needs some serious therapy before he is in a relationship with anyone. So much baggage and abusive behavior…and they aren’t even a romantic couple haha

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