Review – THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black

Review – THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly BlackThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Library


I’m always a little hesitant to start reading a book that is surrounded by intense hype.  Am I going to enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to be or am I going to be the one person who feels let down by all of the hype?  Such was my fear going into Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, which is a much-anticipated read for almost every blogger I know.  Thankfully though, my fear was unfounded and I devoured this book in a couple of days.

The Cruel Prince follows Jude, a mortal who is growing up and trying to find her place in the immortal realm of Faerie.  Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister Vivi are living in Faerie even though they are mortals because their parents were murdered in a fit of rage by Madoc, their mother’s former lover, who also happens to be a General in the High Court of Faerie.  Because he loved their mother, Madoc brings her daughters to live with him and raise as his own.

The novel then fast forwards ten years to a 17-year-old Jude, who along with her twin, is attending classes alongside the fae children of the High Court. Jude wants nothing more than to feel like she belongs in Faerie and especially in the High Court, but it’s difficult for her since she is not immortal and many of the fae do not like mortals.  Jude and her sister are frequently subjected to mockery and bullying by her classmates, who include Prince Cardan of the High Court.  He is particularly ruthless when it comes to Jude.  His mission in life appears to be to make Jude as miserable as possible.  The more Cardan bullies Jude, the more determined Jude becomes to follow her dream, which is to best everyone in a combat tournament and earn a place as a Knight on the King’s Council.

As Jude pursues her dream, she unexpectedly finds herself up to her ears in palace intrigues and deceptions, and she also discovers that she isn’t opposed to spilling blood if the occasion calls for it.  Jude’s original plans ultimately come unraveled, however, as chaos erupts and the Courts of Faerie suddenly find themselves under eminent threat of a civil war.  Desperate to do whatever she can to save her family and her beloved Faerie, Jude makes the choice to risk her life and enter in a dangerous alliance with someone she isn’t sure she can trust.

Will Jude be able to save her family and her home?  Or is she in way over her head?

What I loved most about The Cruel Prince was how complex all of the characters are.  They’re all flawed, some more so than others, and even the most likeable of characters aren’t always likeable.  They all felt very real and it was very easy to become invested in their lives.

Jude, of course, was the most relatable character of the bunch.  As a mortal striving to become a Knight in the King’s Council, she is clearly an underdog so she caught my eye and my sympathy right away.  My sympathy for her only grew as I watched her suffer at the hands of the fae who were so determined to make her life hell.  I also admired her spunk and determination.  The more Prince Cardan tried to humiliate her — and boy, was he relentless! — the more Jude fought back and refused to let him get the best of her. It also made her crave power of her own, which added another layer of depth and a bit of a dark side to her character and made her all the more fascinating to follow. Jude’s need to secure power for herself becomes so great that she allows herself to make a somewhat shady deal with one of Prince Cardan’s older brothers, who is in line to ascend to the throne.  If she does his bidding (in secret of course), he will give her whatever she wants once he is King.  Jude readily agrees, even though it means lying to her family and leading a life of deception.

Speaking of Prince Cardan…this guy was seriously an ass.  He’s drunk most of the time, is completely unfit to ever lead his father’s kingdom, and of course he’s just awful to Jude.  I spent the majority of this first book loathing everything about him, and yet, the farther along I got, the more intrigued I became by him.  I’m not sure what’s there yet, but there certainly appears to be much more to Cardan than originally meets the eye and I want to learn more about him.

Vivi was another character that I found intriguing. Among other things, she has a much more complicated relationship with Madoc than either Jude or Taryn do.  Plus, also unlike Jude and Taryn, Vivi has absolutely no interest in trying to find her place in Faerie.  She refuses to attend classes and looks for every opportunity to slip back over into the mortal realm and go shopping at the mall, hang out with her girlfriend, or whatever else her heart desires.  Pleasing Madoc and trying to be a good ‘daughter’ are at the bottom of Vivi’s priority list.

Aside from how complex and realistic they all felt, I also loved that I never knew which characters, if any, could be trusted since they’re all embroiled in such a high stakes political game.  In that sense, The Cruel Prince actually gave me a major Game of Thrones vibe.

I don’t want to give anything else away, so I’m just going to say in addition to the cast of complex characters that I just couldn’t get enough of, The Cruel Prince is also jammed packed with so many of my favorite things to read about. There’s drama and excitement, deception and betrayals, conspiracies and political intrigue, spies and assassinations (yes, plural!), and even a hint of possible romance.

The pacing is perfect too.  It got off to a slightly slow start when Jude and her sisters first ended up in Faerie and the author was setting the stage for what it was like to live in Faerie as a mortal, but as soon as the stage was set, the story took off and I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

I also loved how Black ended the first book. I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger because I was very satisfied with the stopping point, but at the same time, the story is so good that I’m truly bummed to have to wait until January 2019 to continue with the book two.

As I mentioned early, The Cruel Prince started a little slow for me and I was worried that I wasn’t going to like it.  As you can see from my 5 star rating, I was dead wrong about that so if it starts out a little slow for you, give it some time.  By about the 10% mark, you won’t be able to put the book down, I promise!

If you’re looking for a hyped book that actually lives up to the hype, I’d definitely recommend Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince.  I don’t feel like I’ve written the words here to fully do it justice, but it’s truly one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.


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.


About Holly Black

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

31 replies
    • Olivia
      Olivia says:

      not = need! There is a reason I’m usually commenting from the web and not the phone. Autocorrect and hitting send too early. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  1. Aimee (Aimee, Always)
    Aimee (Aimee, Always) says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this more than I did, Suzanne! The slow pacing at the start was a bit too much for me, but I agree with what you said about Vivi–her character is very interesting, and I hope she gets more time to shine in the sequel!

    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

  2. Silvia
    Silvia says:

    Lots of people I know seem to be in love with this book, and I confess I’m getting really curious now . . . Glad to hear it exceeded all of your expectations! 🙂

  3. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog
    Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog says:

    I was nervous going into this because of the hype and my generally not reading fantasy but it totally came through for me. Loved all the characters too. I agree it was a bit slow in the beginning but I think the audio that I listened helped that out. Great review!

  4. Daniela Ark
    Daniela Ark says:

    yay glad to hear you liked it! I heard some mixed reviews lately! Conspiracies, political intrigue and betrayals are also my favorite toppings 🙂 OH man I’m going to have to read my first book with fairies. How could I not after this review??? 🙂

  5. Jordan Rose
    Jordan Rose says:

    I just started this one last night so I’m thrilled to see you liked it so much! It seems to be off to a great start. Great review! 🙂

  6. Angela
    Angela says:

    I’ve been seeing this one everywhere lately, and I had no idea what it was about. Glad you enjoyed it so much! It definitely sounds like it has a lot of fun elements and intrigue.

  7. Lauren Becker
    Lauren Becker says:

    It’s great when your worries about a book are unfounded. I’ve heard mostly good things about this one, so it seems to be warranted hype. 🙂


  8. Sara @ Forever 17 Books
    Sara @ Forever 17 Books says:

    Yay! This is great to see! I can deal with the slow start if the rest is really good and especially if I know ahead of time to expect it. I have a copy of this one so I hope to start it in the near future!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Oh yes, and for me, it was literally only slow for about the first 5-7% of the ebook I was reading. The action picks up fast and is so good!

  9. Cricket
    Cricket says:

    I’m so glad you loved this one. Jude is my favorite character and I can’t wait to see what she and the other characters do next, especially Prince Cardan.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Jude was so great. I loved watching her grow throughout the story and can’t wait to see how her choices play out in the next book.

  10. sjhigbee
    sjhigbee says:

    Another cracking review, which actually addressed one my greatest reservations about tackling this one – I’m a simple soul and rather allergic to trudging through books without any sympathetic protagonist and I feared this would be one of those – but your review makes it clear that isn’t the case. Thank you!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      You’re welcome! I think the way the author sets the stage by having Jude and her sisters lose their parents so violently really helped me feel sympathetic toward them right from the start.

  11. Jamie @bubblybooks
    Jamie @bubblybooks says:

    OMG so glad you loved this one! Jude was also my favorite! I just loved how determined she was and how she owned her flaws and didn’t let her weaknesses stop her from going after prince cardan or anyone else that got into her way, and speaking of prince cardan I was surprised with how much he annoyed me in the beginning because I usually like dark/morally corrupt characters but he was just down right rude at some points! However as I got towards the end I became more and more intrigued…

    Great review!!

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