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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is the first book in The Folk of the Air series. I had seen this book mentioned a lot on TikTok, and have tried my hardest to avoid any type of spoiler regarding the book including not really reading the synopsis before I began the book. So, the only details that I knew were this book was an enemy to lover trope, involved faeries, and there was a character named Cardan who has a tail. Which are all not spoilers, and I’m going to try to keep my review that way in case you are interested in the book yourself.
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.
After reading every book by Sarah J. Maas, I was still in the mood to keep reading about faeries so after getting past my post series depression with Throne of Glass, I moved onto The Folk of the Air. Initially when I started this book I saw Holly’s dedication for the series to Cassandra Clare, another author whose work I have thoroughly enjoyed in the past, so I was very intrigued to begin with.
It was interesting how the three worlds collide or rather share details. Mab was the start of the monarch in The Cruel Prince while Mab was one of the first in Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Then there are the Seelie and Unseelie courts that Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare and The Cruel Prince both include. With the faerie in The Cruel Prince being more similar to those in Cassandra Clare’s series with various since both take after folklore in some capacity.
Black does a good job of building the world the book takes place in without coming across as an information dump. The writing is flowery with darker undertones that match the overall tone of the book. While there is magic to be had, it’s laced with cruelty. Even though the faeries in this tale cannot lie, they are excellent at deception which the main character, Jude (story is told through her point of view in the first person) has learned to fear but she refuses to be a pawn in some bigger game, wanting some type of power to protect herself against the faeries. First she tries through knighthood, but after that’s denied by her foster father (the man who murdered her family) she finds it elsewhere.
The faerie in this world all have some animal feature like Cardan having a tail, Jude’s sister has cat-like eyes and ears, and some of the royal children have goat legs. It sets them apart from the mortals in more ways than just pointed ears and immortality. There’s a good amount of variety that keep that otherworldly feel to the Folk. Not to mention the characters are interesting to read about, each are cruel in a different way so they don’t all blend together.
I did not see the twist that came at the end of Book One of The Cruel Prince. You know something is going to happen towards Dain during his coronation, but not what is going to happen. How Jude reacts to it is interesting especially as it plays out in the second half. The twist from that section was also slightly shocking though not as much as the first twist. I won’t say what either of them are. But I am very curious how the next book will play out because of it.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I would give it a 3.5 stars out of 5. I’m a sucker for fantasy novels and Jude is a refreshing character. She doesn’t stand back and let others control the narrative as many female main characters do. She’s determined, strong-willed and not afraid to do the dirty work herself to ensure she gets what she desires. The first half of the book is slower in pace compared to the second half.
Still I couldn’t find myself putting the book down, though I don’t think this is a series I’m going to read a dozen times over but I would say it’s worth the read. If you like dark fantasy with some violence, cruelty, and descriptive writing then you’ll enjoy this book as well. The romance isn’t heavy in this tale, so while it may be an enemy to lover trope, it’s really a background detail of the tale.
If you’ve read The Cruel Prince, what did you think?
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