Before I start my review I want to say something: this is the very first time that I read Holly Black’s work (the author is also known to be the Queen of Faerie). It’s a super hyped-up book over on Bookstagram – which is one of the many reasons I’ve been so excited for this book! Thank you Allen and Unwin for sending me a review copy!
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.
Another important note I want to make before I continue is that prior to reading The Cruel Prince, I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt (if you’ve read TSH, you would know what I am on about). Very often, as a reader – you can’t help but compare books right? This happened to me when I first started reading The Cruel Prince – and oh boy I’m still quite mad at myself till this day. This is the reason why I delayed the composition of my review, as I needed a few days to solidify my thoughts on The Cruel Prince and The Cruel Prince alone. It was bloody hard! Because the writing difference is so significance and I hate myself for being an idiot for starting The Cruel Prince right after – because Black’s writing lacks the ‘lushness’ when compared to Tartt’s. Therefore, I will be re-reading The Cruel Prince before book two comes out so that I can let myself see if I can enjoy it more the next time around.
Now, let’s get on to the actual review.
Despite having mixed feelings upon finishing this book – I have to admit that I enjoyed it overall! I mean it’s got faerie magic, a dashing prince, epic drama, bloodshed and so on – it sounded promising to me! And it did work! There were quite a few plot twists that I really really appreciated and loved! THE CLIFFHANGERRRRR!!!!!
This book basically is about: Jude (our narrator), whom at the age of seven, witnessed her parents’ brutal murder. And right after that, she and her two sisters (one is her human twin, one is older with fae blood) are whisked away by the murderer to live in Faerie. Now, fast forward ten years in time, Jude is doing everything she can to live in faerie high society, while constantly being reminded of her mortal human status. Some more background: the High King of faerie has ruled for a looooong time, and it’s finally time for him to step down and pass the royal crown to one of his children of his choosing. And in the middle of it all – Jude gets caught up in a very complicated political game: with houses/ courts taking different sides, spies being sent out, favours being granted and owned, drama erupts – one thing is clear to all: civil war is due to break out in the Courts of Faerie if said game isn’t played properly. Now my fellow humans, that’s where plot twists come in and OH BOY.
The characters: Jude is an outright hot-blooded human girl who is fierce, determined, good with a sword and hates taking people’s shit. Her goal in life is to make a name for herself by becoming a Knight for the Court. I found her character arc quite interesting, but a little bit inconsistent: she appears selfless and noble but I think deep down, from what I’ve read, she also seems quite selfish and rude. I do love a strong-willed female lead, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t find Jude’s character too loveable nor agree with some of her actions. I love flawed characters but the representation of Jude and her thoughts didn’t quite work with me. MOVING ON. we have Prince Cardan, aka the youngest son of the High King. He is bloody cruel (hence the book title y’all), and dashing, and charming, and raven-haired, and handsome, you name it. As I dived into the book in the beginning, I got the gist that Cardan’s sole goal in life is to make Jude’s life a living hell
and he’s quite good at it. If it wasn’t for Cardan, I would have to take another star off my rating. So yeah, I enjoyed reading about the sarcastic Cardan the most. I wish the book is mostly about him and not Jude oops. There are other side characters – and they are awesome, but I won’t go into details because that’s spoiling things 😉
The writing and world building and plot: as I’ve written at the very start, I found the writing a bit bland when compared to my previous read – therefore it DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT ISN’T GOOD! It was good I’m telling ya! I also had huge expectations about the world building and oh boy it was good too! I do have one complaint: the world isn’t as memorable as I expected it to be, and I really can’t recall anything spectacular other than that mirror lake thingy.
Soz fam. The schemes, the really bad spying, the assassinations, plot twists, and politics were some of my favorite parts! Overall, the writing was very straightforward and not as lush as something I’d initially expect from a fae story – hence the reason why this book didn’t make it to 4.5/5 stars.
All in all
the quality of this review is bat shit and I apologise for no particular reason the book was a good read! It didn’t live up to the hype for me personally, again I’d like to blame Wing-yee for being an idiot for not waiting a few more days before she read this book. ANYWAYs – if you’re into fae, blood stuff and killings, dynamic fae-scale drama and intense Court politics – this book is for you!
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