Book Review: The Cruel Prince


The Cruel Prince

Written by Holly Black

384 pages

Published by Bonnier Zaffre (Hot Key Books)

Publication date: 2nd January 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

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

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old 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.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war 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.

There are dozens of the Folk here, crowding around the entrance to the vast throne room, where Court is being held—long‑nosed pixies with tattered wings; elegant, green‑ skinned ladies in long gowns with goblins holding up their trains; tricksy boggans; laughing foxkin; a boy in an owl mask and a golden headdress; an elderly woman with crows crowding her shoulders; a gaggle of girls with wild roses in their hair; a bark‑ skinned boy with feathers around his neck; a group of knights all in scarab‑green armor. Many I’ve seen before; a few I have spoken with. Too many for my eyes to drink them all in, yet I cannot look away. I never get tired of this— of the spectacle, of the pageantry. Maybe Oriana isn’t entirely wrong to worry that we might one day get caught up in it, be carried away by it, and forget to take care. I can see why humans succumb to the beautiful nightmare of the Court, why they willingly drown in it.

I have been a big fan of Holly Black since I first picked up Tithe from my local library and dove in with no idea what to expect. I know that many reviewers find it hard to connect with her characters as they are flawed and find her combination of the real world and the faerie courts jarring. Yet, if you read the old versions of fairytales (not Disney’s) the fae are often tricky, mischievous and cruel.

For me, she was one of the first writers I came across who managed to successfully capture the decay and darkness beneath the faerie glamour, truly managing to replicate the sense of menace, designed in traditional tales, to make humans cautious.

In this story she has once again proved why she is known by some as the ‘Queen of Faerie because she successfully creates a dark, twisted world inspired by the old folktales where the fae are capricious and cruel, yet sets it alongside a modern world that feels all too familiar. I liked Jude’s father and her sister Vivienne, wanted to find out more about her stepmother, mother and Locke’s mother – all of whom have fallen foul of the darker side of the Court. I would have liked to know more about Cardan and his motivations…have to wait until Book 2 for that!

Faeries make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelties. Twisted words, pranks, omissions, riddles, scandals, not to mention their revenges upon one another for ancient, half‑remembered slights. Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious.

” You are nothing. You barely exist at all. Your only purpose is to create more of your kind before you die.”

He’s wrong about me.

I am going to make my mayfly life count for something. I won’t be afraid of him or of Prince Dain’s censure.

If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.

What I liked: Traveling back to the dark world of faerie that the author has created so lovingly and painstakingly in her previous books – anyone who has read other works by Holly Black will easily recognize cameo appearances from main characters in other books. Jude’s strength and determination to make something of herself in a system which is stacked against her – could respect that more than Taryn trying to fit in by giving up some of her independence.

Even better if: At times there was a bit of info-dumping and it is difficult to fully sympathize with many of the characters as they all have something about them which makes them unlikeable – realistic, yet unlikeable. I didn’t really ‘ship’ any of the relationships as they seemed a bit shallow.

How you could use it in your classroom: As with all books by Holly Black, I would recommend reading before recommending to others – know your children! I can see them being very popular with teenage readers who like the grittiness of her stories but could also see them proving unpopular with more conservative parents because of candid discussions about sex, drink and drugs.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for my e-ARC)

30 Comments Add yours

  1. So excited for this one! Great review!


  2. Kavita says:

    Really enjoyed this review!
    I’ve heard so many great things about The Cruel Prince – I need to pick up a copy asap!!

    Liked by 1 person

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