Author: Holly Black
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Jan. 2018
First off, I definitely liked this. It was an intriguing story with some pretty interesting characters. But I didn’t love it quite as much as I was hoping. This may be a good example of a book where the hype gave me unrealistic expectations. The Cruel Prince only came out the first week of January, but I’ve been seeing so much buzz about it everywhere and pretty much everyone seems to have totally loved it. Like I said, I did actually quite enjoy this book and I will definitely be reading the next one, but it’s one of those 3 stars reads that I liked not loved.
This was my first Holly Black book. I know she’s written a ton of stuff and that she’s quite popular, which surprised me because I didn’t love her writing style. Her writing is very simple and I honestly had to go back to goodreads to check what genres this was listed under because, with the exception of the opening scene (which is gruesome), I felt like I was reading a middle grade novel for the first half of this book. Between Jude’s bullying at school, her boy woes, and the simple writing, I didn’t feel like I was reading a YA fantasy novel.
Anyways, to give you a quick summary, The Cruel Prince is set in the world of the high fae, which is closely linked with the mortal world. The first chapter is stellar and starts off with a brutal double murder and the faerie general, Madoc, dragging Jude and her two sisters back to Faerie to be their surrogate father. Jude and her sister Taryn are both humans and suffer a lot at the hands of the fae. Humans are often enchanted and used as servants by the fae and it’s only Madoc’s status as the general that protects them. They are bullied at school, but Faerie is really all they’ve ever known and they are both desperate to fit in.
Jude wants to prove herself by besting the fae and becoming a knight to the royal family. But she is at odds with the young prince Cardan, who’s in her class at school and it unbelievably cruel. When rumours fly that the high king is going to be abdicating his position to one of his 6 children, Jude gets caught up in the drama and the secret scheming for the crown.
Okay, what did I like about this book? I liked Jude as the narrator. She had spunk and she was quite stubborn, but also ballsy. I also liked Cardan – the book is called ‘the cruel prince’ so you know there’s going to be more to Cardan than meets the eye and I was really intrigued as to what his deal is. I also thought Madoc was a fascinating character, even though I HATED him. I liked Vivi too, so I guess the strongest part of this novel for me was the characters, which is a pretty good because in my opinion, characterization is key.
Things I didn’t like – apparently there’s a few of them. Firstly, I did not like the pacing, which I thought was all over the place. The novel starts off strong with the double murder and then gets ridiculously boring for the first third. Things get super intense again two thirds in with the coronation scene, but then they inexplicably slow down during the last third when the novel should be at its climax! I like a good planner, but I didn’t really like having to read about all the planning in lieu of just reading about the action.
I also thought this book was king of predictable. There was a side mystery going on throughout the course of the book, but I didn’t find it particularly compelling and I found it kind of hard to follow, so I was never really that intrigued in trying to solve the mystery because I never felt like I even really knew what the point was. There were definitely some surprising scenes in the book, but overall I could kind of guess where things were going and I was never really surprised by betrayals because I never trusted any of the characters to begin with.
I can’t decide if I liked the relationship between Jude and Taryn or not. They were really all each other had in the world and I found it hard to believe they would be so at odds with one another.
I’ll give Black props though, this book had a lot of characters and I never had any trouble following along with them all (with the exception of the side mystery element). I love when minor characters matter and I love when they have depth, and Holly Black had both in this novel. The Cruel Prince has the perfect kind of cliffhanger. Black has closed off all her loose ends, but she’s still left a wide up open space for the story to move into. I am genuinely excited to see what’s going to happen with Jude and Cardan in the next book and I really like the dynamic between the two of them. The most disappointing part is that I’m going to have to wait a whole year for the next installment!