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.
This book was so hyped that I ended up buying the hardback just to find out why. I never buy hardbacks ESPECIALLY for a series but I was so eager to read this book I didn’t care. The Cruel Prince promised an enchanting dark fantasy with faeries and magic providing the mystical backdrop for a violent struggle for power. I had never read Holly Black’s books before The Cruel Prince but I now understand the term “Queen of the Faeries”. The world that Holly Black has created is as beautiful as it is brutal. She has built a world that is complex and diverse and has the depth of any good high fantasy. The lore and the different rules and the class system were so well thought out and the main reason I enjoyed the book as much as I did.
In terms of plot this book waxed and waned for me, it wasn’t that I was bored, it was just that the events that occurred became more and more absurd. My main issue with this book was Jude, or rather what Jude gets up to. Jude begins the story as a mortal girl in Faerieland, a girl who lives on the fringes of faerie society, never fitting in, never respected, never treated like an equal. How faeries view mortals in this book is one of the reasons Jude’s character arc is unbelievable, mortals are supposed to be lesser, only worthy as servants but that didn’t stop Jude even when it should.
This girl is 17 and it’s only by the protection of her parent’s murderer/father figure that she isn’t treated any worse than she already is (which is saying something when you read what Jude has to go through). Yet she manages to outsmart pretty much everyone through sheer luck, circumstance or their unbelievable stupidity. Jude is just not believable as a vicious and clever tactician capable of outsmarting people who are stupid enough to underestimate her. She gets away with things not because of her own talents but because the people around her let her. Cardan barely put up a fight and don’t even get me started on her managing to out-manoeuvre a General – who you know taught her everything she knows about strategy and killing.
I could have also bought Jude as a brutal killer who isn’t taking crap anymore if she wasn’t so prone to juvenile behaviour. For instance the fighting with her sister Taryn – first of all it was obvious a mile off who Taryn’s lover was but that whole situation was weird. Taryn just watching on as Jude is waltzing around with her secret lover didn’t make sense. It was ridiculous that this weird arrangement caused such a rift between the twin sisters. Taryn did a lot of bad stuff in the book but secretly hooking up with someone who is kissing her sister wasn’t one of them, it was just odd and kind of desperate.
Jude somehow gets involved in something that she has absolutely NO BUSINESS being a part of. She finds herself in the ridiculous situation of being a major player in a game that has nothing to do with her. I understand she has always envied the faerie and always wanted to be equal and part of their society. She has always felt powerless and craves the power over herself and her own life that she never had. I can just about understand her reasoning but what she manages to achieve still felt ludicrous and ultimately pointless. What does Jude get from staying in a place no one wants her?
Despite all this ranting I am struggling to rate this book because my feelings were so mixed. Just by my strong reaction to it I know it was a good book, a bland and boring story isn’t worth talking about this much. Jude is an interesting and sometimes relatable character, I loved that she started to fight back, stand her ground and let the faerie world know she wasn’t just a mere mortal. Cardan has that whole dark and damaged thing going on and The Bomb and Co are shaping up to be decent sidekicks. I think with the same world but a different plot and this book would have definitely been a five star read for me.
Ultimately I think that plot twist ending saved it for me. The ending offered me hope and this book definitely has enough potential for me to continue reading.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars