Sharpen your blade. Harden your heart.
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.
I have a complex relationship with The Cruel Prince.
Let me take you back…. It’s 2018 and literally everyone was raving about this book. You couldn’t log onto Goodreads without seeing The Cruel Prince blowing up in your feed. The hype was unreal, okay?
So, jumping on board the band wagon quick smart, I read it and felt…nothing? To me, the book was trashy and borderline abusive. I didn’t buy into the hype at all. I hated Jude, who I found was bitter, selfish and flawed and I hated the plot which centered around court politics, bullying and revenge. #sonotmycupoftea.
Clearly something just didn’t click with me. Maybe because I was expecting a flowery fantasy? You know, something like An Enchantment of Ravens or A Court of Thorns and Roses? Whereas instead, I got this seriously dark book full of backstabbing and anti-heroes. This is so not you’re grandmother’s fairy world. Here, unsuspecting mortals are forced into dangerous bargains, compelled into slavery and glamoured to work past the point of exhaustion. And that’s if the folk don’t kill them first.
Anyway, we all know I basically dragged the heck out of The Cruel Prince. It reared its head in pretty much every tag I did. And yet, I still went out and bought The Wicked King on its release??? Hey – I never promised to be reasonable nor logical.
Convinced I had read a different book, I think I always knew I was going to give The Cruel Prince a second chance. There was this small part who knew, deep down, that the schoolyard bullying, the court intrigue, the shifting alliances, even the morally grey characters would eventually grow on me. Like a weed.
And so, here I am, post re-read, swallowing what’s left of my pride and admitting that I don’t in fact hate The Cruel Prince. *Surprised Pikachu face*. Hallelujah! And just to be clear – admitting that tasted like sour wine on my tongue.
But don’t get too carried away here – I still don’t think The Cruel Prince is 100% deserving of its hype. This is not a five star read, okay? There’s a period before the mid-point that drags and I still have a lot of issues with the whole romance aspect – some things never change – but, I do owe Holly Black an apology.
Anyway, moving on to the actual reviewing, The Cruel Prince is an urban fantasy book about Jude, a morally grey human who is stolen away and whisked off to live in Faerie. Being a human in Faerie is tough and Jude has to learn to adapt to a dark, complex, brooding world. Like I said, originally I wasn’t prepared for Jude’s character. She is fierce and brave but she is also a deeply flawed character. I guess that’s what makes her so human though. That being said, I definitely appreciated Jude more the second time around. She’s vulnerable – a product of circumstance so I can forgive her resentment.
Also, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve grown up but I kind of low key lived for Jude’s scheming?
Then we have the world of Faerie itself. I actually always loved Faerie, especially how it was contrasted with the mortal world. I mean, one minuet you’re in Faerie, frolicking with Jude and navigating the treacherous court and the next you’re wandering the isles of Target. Like – what? It’s unexpected, it’s jarring and… it works???
And I have to take a quick second to talk about the family drama [which is something else, let me tell you]. Fun fact: I hated the sheer amount of backstabbing in Jude’s family the first time. I mean, the girl has enough to worry about with Cardan and his court of worms without having to worry about Taryn [who is most probably the world’s worst sister]. But once again, the drama has grown on me. Again, kinda living for it. Also, kinda want to strangle Taryn. And Madoc – but that’s a whole other can of worms we’re not going to open today.
Basically, The Cruel Prince is a sinfully dark book about anti-heroes, schemes within schemes within plots with a mid-point twist that will leave you SHOOK. No one can be trusted, the royal family is dangerously corrupt and nothing is as it seems. At the end of it, I guess I can say I’ve officially been converted to the dark side. [Apparently they have cookies?]. Holly Black – I’m sorry I ever doubted this story and these complex characters. Man did I eat my words.