The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis on Goodreads:
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.
One: This review has spoilers. I tried to keep them as minimal as possible, but I wasn’t able to write this without mentioning them. If you’d still like to read this review, without the spoilers, I’ve blocked them out on Goodreads. I’m also undecided on what to rate this. I loved it but there were some parts I hated. Right now I’m choosing a neutral three star rating – it’s harder for my review to be found on Goodreads if there’s no rating.
Two: I’m including the TW’s for this book here.
TW: Murder, abuse, violence, Stockholm syndrome?? not sure what you call it when the MC is living with her parents’ murderer and thinks of that person as a father/doesn’t completely hate them?, being drugged against your will, sexual misconduct, harassment. There could possibly be more TW’s that I’ve missed.
On to my actual review!
THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black is possibly one of the best Faerie books I’ve read in a long time. Before starting this, I was going through a really bad reading slump. Reading TCP did not feel like a chore. I sacrificed sleep for this book! Sometimes I’ll read a book and even if I’m enjoying it and really need to know the ending, the actual reading part will feel like a chore. I’m really thankful that the hype surrounding this book didn’t get to me and that TCP broke my reading slump. That being said, I had a lot of problems with it.
I think the world-building, the plot, and the protagonist’s character development were excellent. The book’s map confused me a bit in regards to the size of Faerie but the world itself was incredible. I loved that not every Fae you met was gorgeous – there were goblins, trolls, and all manner of creatures. Even the “beautiful” Fae had some animalistic underside to them. In this respect, the author’s vision translated to the reader. The plot’s pacing was great and even if I saw some things coming, I still felt the suspense. Finally, Jude’s character development was amazing and I felt like she really grew throughout the entire book.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Fae/Faerie books and I would read any Fae book, even the terrible ones. My favourite author was O.R. Melling. It’s that one thing I can’t get enough of. This means I’m a little familiar with the folklore surrounding the Fae, and how cruel and devious they can be. I was not surprised to read about a cruel, dark world with violence at every corner.
That being said, just because I (an adult, and not the target audience) expected a dark, cruel world doesn’t mean the target audience will, or will even understand that some of the elements in this book are not what the real world/real people should actually be like. Some of my problems with this book would be something happening, that makes me include a trigger warning at the top of my review, and that thing being acknowledged but not challenged. I’m mostly worried about a reader connecting with one of these situations and thinking their own situation is standard, when it’s really concerning! Yes this is fantasy but that doesn’t mean a reader won’t connect their real-life situation with some aspect of this book.
For example, at one point in the book the MC is forced to eat Faerie fruit (which is basically a drug to humans) and had a very real chance of being raped or sexually assaulted. I considered it a date rape drug. The MC is compelled to take off her clothes while bystanders & the person who forced her to eat the Faerie fruit either laugh, take advantage of the MC or ignore the situation. This is acknowledged as wrong later on, but it’s never fully challenged. The assailant is never even brought to justice (for this, at least). There are probably more examples I could find but I don’t want to write a 10 page review.
As I said earlier, the MC’s character development was great but any development between Jude and other characters were basically thrown out the window. I would say the bond between Jude and her older sister Vivi were good but I was expecting more. I always want more when it comings to the MC and their sibling(s). Also, the title and the synopsis makes it seem like Cardan is the second biggest character in this book and yet there was hardly any real development between him and Jude. It’s only two thirds in that there’s any real progress.
Jude did learn that maybe there was more to Cardan than meets the eye but it was usually through a third party. So, Jude might witness something, without Cardan knowing, or she might learn something about him but from someone else. It was so dissatisfying. How is he “the cruel prince” if he’s always in the background?! The title was possibly referring to someone else (who I won’t name for spoilers) but yeah. Very disappointing.
The romance was also terrible! I expected some romance between Jude and Cardan which didn’t happen until the end. What I did not expect was Jude/Locke romance. I’m like okay, maybe it’s a love triangle. Locke turns out to be really sweet, probably the nicest of Cardan’s friends. UNTIL. We find out that Locke is secretly engaged to Jude’s twin sister, Taryn AND that he forbade Taryn from telling anyone, especially Jude. So Taryn is acting weird, always asking Jude what she’s doing with Locke AND IT ALL MAKES SENSE. I’m sorry if this seems unprofessional but this is a really creepy love triangle/square. And at the end, Taryn still wants him, while he wants both of them. Being a Fae is not an excuse for this not to be challenged. The romance was all ruined by this. Also, if my sister chose some creepy guy over me, believe me when I say we’d be having words. I can’t believe I got less Cardan for this!!
Obviously the author is really good with plot twists but I did see the ending coming. Did anyone not see it coming?
There was a slut-shaming moment/quote I’m including below because it went unchallenged and it could have been done without the slut-shaming. Totally unnecessary.
“I turn toward Oriana, expecting another speech about not getting into trouble or even a speech about keeping my legs closed around royalty, but she is too busy pleading with Oak to get out of the road” page 227.
For context, Oriana (basically Jude’s stepmother) believes Jude is becoming involved with a Fae prince and she’s warning her that wives and consorts of Fae royalty always end up as pawns. The warning was fine but not the “keeping my legs closed” part. The author could’ve just said something like “don’t be involved with a prince, it always ends bad”. This definitely lost a star.
Thank you for reading! Just to rehash, I loved THE CRUEL PRINCE but it has a lot of unchallenged problems and it is important that readers are aware of them. I’d love to know your thoughts on this book, if you’ve read it!