“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing. You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down. I promise you this” —I throw his own words back at him—“this is the least of what I can do.”
So I have to admit – this is the first Holly Black book I’ve ever read. I’m honestly not sure why I waited this long, as I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince!
A bit about the book – Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister Vivi are taken away from their parents and the human world by a redcap named Madoc after he came to collect Vivi – it’s revealed within the first couple of pages that Vivi is actually Madoc’s daughter and therefore half fae, but Jude and Taryn are fully human. After Madoc kills their mother for running away from him and the man they thought was father to all three of them, they’re whisked off to the land of faerie. Although Vivi is the only one with any fae blood, the three of them are brought up in Madoc’s household in the way that all children of the gentry are. Vivi despises everything about Madoc and the land they were taken to, but Jude and Taryn barely have any memories of the mortal world and have grown attached to living amongst faeries. However, many of the other young fae are resentful of sharing their lessons and their ways with two human girls – specifically Cardan, the titular Cruel Prince, and his friends who basically act as the school bullies of faerieland.
I think probably my favourite thing about the characters in this book is the fact that it isn’t just the group who torments Jude that are the cruel ones – every character in this book has a dark streak. Jude’s ambition to become a knight despite the ridicule from Cardan and his friends, and she wouldn’t let anyone put her down – she schemed and plotted, and seeing her parents murdered by the man who’s now raising her definitely had a dark impact on her. Taryn isn’t as sweet as she initially seems, Vivi makes use of her trickster fae-like ways, and although Madoc always seems to have the girls best interests at heart, you kind of can’t forget that the guy literally killed their parents in front of them and then kidnapped them? Even Cardan, who’s seen as the worst amongst his many siblings, maybe isn’t as bad as some of them are – and that’s saying something. No one in this story is kind, and I loved it.
Holly Black is known as the Queen of the faeries, and The Cruel Prince was certainly full of all of the faery-lore from traditional stories. The aversion to iron, the complex bargains, and the inability to lie (although of course, the fae found their way around this as always) were all present. Alongside the expected court intrigue, plotting, and overall cruelty, The Cruel Prince also had a great plot, full of clever twists and turns, and I definitely didn’t anticipate the ending. Jude’s actions were always well thought out and made sense, but I still never expected what she would do. She was definitely a great main character and I’m really excited to see what she’ll do in the sequel.
Overall, if you like a dark, badass faerie story with all the typical tropes but a lot, well, crueler, I’d definitely recommend The Cruel Prince!
lots of love,