Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Guard your mortal heart

26032887. sy475 You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she 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 easy to control. 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 own 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. 

4 Stars

Beware – spoilers for The Cruel Prince. Read at your own risk.

Once upon a time I read an overly-hyped book. And hated it.

Well, it’s been two years since I let that gaping wound fester. Two years of seeing the series blow up in my Goodreads feed. Two years of feeling like I seriously missed out on something.

So, I did what any normal human would do – I gave The Cruel Prince a second chance. And loved it.

Here I am, having finished the entire series and writing the rest of my reviews because not only have I become low-key obsessed with these complex, morally grey characters but I have even been swayed by the romance. Yes – you did in fact, read that correctly. Consider this my white flag as I buy my ticket for the Jude and Cardan express.

Jokes aside, here’s what you need to know about the Wicked King as if there’s anyone left who hasn’t read it.

The Wicked King opens five months after the shocking events of The Cruel Prince. Cardan is the proclaimed High King of Faerie with Jude by his side as Seneschal – which is basically a decoy because we all know that for all intents and purposes, Jude is the Queen. But Jude will soon realize that power is much easier to obtain than hold onto and there’s a whole court who wants her eradicated from the throne.

Anyway, if you loved the intrigue and scheming in The Cruel Prince brace yourself because The Wicked King takes everything to the next level. Sleep who?

The first thing you need to know about The Wicked King is that I think it’s a lot slower than The Cruel Prince. Probably 80% of The Wicked King is Jude and Cardan’s power struggle in a dangerously corrupt court where alliances are constantly shifting and no one can be trusted. The action is pushed to the back-burner for the first half as the deceptive Court of Faerie takes center stage. Be prepared for TENSION because this book gave me literal anxiety. This is not a relaxing book, okay? There’s angst, there’s plenty of scheming and plotting and Jude is constantly undermined by literally everyone. Oh, and don’t forget the family drama that we’ve all come to love.

Which brings me to Jude, everyone’s favorite anti-hero. Jude really won me over in The Wicked King. I was just so freaking anxious for her! I’m talking nail-biting-bouncing-up-and-down-on-the-edge-of-your-seat anxiousness. I mean, Jude schemes relentlessly to keep her position at the crown’s right hand and I loved watching her fight, tooth and nail, even though her crusade is destined to fail. Watching her play the puppet master while facing threats from all sides was just something else. It’s basically the equivalent to drowning. That’s what it felt like anyway – I was left gaping and breathless.

Then there’s Cardan, the seething High King who may or may not have a soft spot for our Jude. I couldn’t for the life of me figure Cardan out. One minuet he’s drinking himself into a stupor and the next he’s playing at High King. I mean, what are his motives? Whose side is he really on?!? And damn, if I wasn’t shipping them before I sure as heck am now. I don’t know what changed exactly, all I know is that something did. Their relationship has never been one of love but somehow I was thirsting for more? More angst, more steamy scenes and more delicious banter.

And then suddenly we have that mid-point plot twist and we’re off to the Undersea!

All I’m saying is that it’s basically all downhill from there. But, you know, in the best possible way.

Anyway, I’m not going to say much more, this review is getting pretty long, only to say that this might be my favorite family dynamic in all of literature. I mean – the sheer amount of backstabbing, the gut wrenching betrayals, the suspense… I was LIVING for Jude, Tayrn and Madoc’s tense interactions. You could basically cut each scene with a knife.

At the end of it, I’m a god damn fool for not realizing how good this freaking series is sooner. Moral of the story: don’t make the same mistake I did.

16 thoughts on “Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

    • That makes two of us – I was suffering from FOMO bad. EVERYONE was raving about this series and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same reaction. I’m going to chalk it up to being a serious mood reading and call it a day! 😉

      It’s funny because when I read each book I closed the book with one rating in mind and with each book I ended up raising said rating. I couldn’t stop obsessing over the characters and thinking about these books! To more I sat on the reviews the more I realized that this series will forever be one of my favorites.

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    • Girl you gotta get on this series STAT because it has wormed it’s way into my heart and ensnared it like a weed. I am OBSESSED. If you need any motivation I’m pretty sure my Cruel Prince review is spoiler safe. I think these books would be right up your alley – seriously dark fairies with a touch of whimsy and glitter. ❤

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  1. LOL I loved the way you said you could cut the scene with a knife!! The tension!! AHHH!! I fell hard for Jude and Cardan though I know they’re pretty toxic…haha. It’s hard not to every one of their scenes is written so well! Also, feel free to join me on the Jude and Cardan express!! My train car has a lot of space! 😉

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    • I am 100% joining on said express – I’ll be the one sitting right up the front of the carriage waving my banner! 😉 😂

      And I feel you on that tension. I was LIVING for it. Holly Black did an amazing job of weaving it through every scene. Never have I been so worried or so concerned for a character like I was for Jude. I think she showed her vulnerable side in The Wicked King and I was very much aware that she had found herself in the vipers nest [heehee see what I did there?]. ❤

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  2. So I just finished TCP and had to come read your review of the sequel!!! The whole time I was thinking about the Undersea whilst reading the first book so I’m BEYOND happy we’re going there in the sequel.

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    • Awwww that makes me so happy! Look, I’m going to be real – we’re only down in the depths of the Undersea for a short segment but it’s EVERYTHING. I can’t wait for you too read it! and don’t stress if you find the first half a little slow – the second half is like plot twist after plot twist after plot twist. 😉 x

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  3. I read The Cruel Prince last month and just started on The Wicked King on audio and honestly am in shock how quickly I became invested in the characters. I didn’t care much for Jude or Cardan but the ship is creeping up on me and I have no idea where it came from. Super excited and also a bit nervous to see how it all wraps up!

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    • The Queen of Nothing was amazing from the opening page to the last line. I hope you have as much fun as I did. Be warned though – a book hangover is inevitable! 😉 By Queen of Nothing I was practically screaming for more Cardan and Jude – isn’t funny how these things creep up on you?

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