Review of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

“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.”

I’m feeling a little underwhelmed if I’m honest, I have never read a Holly Black book before and with the hype surrounding this I fully felt I would be blown away, I was left with a gentle simmer.   I have to say I really didn’t enjoy the characters and I’m finding it hard to think of one that was particularly likeable.  Jude and her sister Tarryn are now living as wards of the man who brutally murdered their parents when they were very young, yet they seem to embrace him and throughout it doesn’t appear to be any thirst for revenge against him that fuels her, instead it seems to be focused on the torment and bullying she receives from the “cruel” prince Carden and getting back at him and his posse.  I say “cruel” because it’s actually quite ambiguous, there are plenty of princes who are truly cruel in this story, more so than Carden who is just a by product of his experiences. I certainly wouldn’t agree with the blurb that he is the “wickedest of the Kings sons.”  All the male characters are written without much in the way of redeeming features and most of the girls are scheming.  Sadly, I didn’t really care about Jude and I found the situations she found herself in slowly more and more ludicrous almost as if it was ultimately forgotten that she was human playing fae.

However, after the first 8 chapters the story moves from High School drama to something more fantasy based, Jude finds herself tasked with an unusual role which she hopes will find her favour within the court (Tarryn gets reduced to wanting to be a good little wife to a high lord – urgh) and ultimately secure her a role in which she will win respect.  Jude must learn to become tough, to learn secrets and to ultimately become a pawn in a much larger game for power.  Despite my reservations Holly Black worked some magic on me that led me to not want to put the book down, there were twists and turns, truths and lies, and a plot that left me reeling, if not a little confused sometimes.  It’s a book that feels like it is trying to be many things, there is one scene that feels particularly Game of Thrones esq, but it does for the most part mange to keep it’s own identity.

I have struggled to write this review and I did hover between 2 and 3 stars for a long time, I have decided on 3 as for about 2/3 I did actually enjoy the underlying story, if not the characters themselves. I found it richly woven with plenty to keep me thinking ahead and an intriguing back story.  There are a number of games in play and lots of clues of being dotted around, unfortunately Jude is too caught up to put the pieces together properly which isn’t surprising as even I was struggling to keep up with all the things going on!  Despite myself, I will probably read book 2 as for some reason that I can’t entirely fathom I really want to know what happens next, perhaps it’s a glamour from the pages themselves…….


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