The Cruel Prince Book Review

Title: The Cruel Prince
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Authors: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 2, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Kindle eBook

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.


What a ride it was to be back in Holly Black’s land of Faerie. I read her Tithe series way back in the day, probably when I was in middle school or high school, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The story was so fascinating to me, and it’s really the thing that pushed me to fall in love with faeries from that point on.

Now, in this new book, it shows a much darker side to Faerie than I’m used to. I mean, I’m used to reading dark tales about Faerie because, let’s be real, it can be a very cruel place not just to mortals, but to the other Fey as well, but this story brought on a lot more betrayal, hatred, and a general sense of apathy than anything.

Let’s talk characters because there were a lot of characters introduced to us through Jude’s eyes, and I want to give some of my thoughts on them.

Jude, herself, was a very melancholic character. We were often reminded of how much she hated life in Faerie and how she loved Madoc, though he’s a monster, and how she despised Cardan. I’m not saying those points were annoying, but I did pick up just how often they were said and I kind of felt it was redundant. I also felt her character was a bit… lacking? She was very much just a ball of anger at the world around her. Any emotions other than general discourse or anger felt outside of her realm and I didn’t really feel any particular attachment to her, especially through the first two thirds of the story. More on that in a minute.

Cardan was quite the cruel prince (but not the main reason for the title of the book, let me tell you lol) who enjoyed seeing Jude suffer, but also did very, very subtle things to ensure nothing harmed her to the point of death. In the latter half of the book it felt almost like I was reading about an entirely different character? At least in some parts he felt a bit too open, a bit too friendly, even, but that familiar cruelness came right back at the very end and I was like, “Ah, yes, there he is.”

Madoc, Balekin, and Dain all had fairly significant parts to play throughout the story, and each of them played it well. Overall they all felt very cunning, very manipulative, and willing to do anything to get what they wanted. But my biggest point here in talking about these three: I wanted to learn more about them and why they were the way they were, even as fey.

Valerian, Locke, and Nicasia were friends of Cardan’s, and I didn’t very much like them. Valerian was a huge jerk, Locke always seemed like there was something more mischievous and cunning underneath everything that he did, and Nicasia… well, I actually kind of liked her, despite her being a horrible person.

Taryn and Vivienne were Jude’s sisters, and though they had their parts to play in the story, I also felt like they were just there when it was most convenient for the plot. I do, however, really like Vivi and her determination to do everything in her power to go against her father’s, Madoc’s, wishes.

Okay, now let’s talk about the plot, because I have some things I want to say about it, as well as the writing through the first two thirds of the book.

First off, the writing continuously felt like it was jumping and cutting out scenes that should have taken place. When I was reading some parts and it instantly jumped from, for example, Jude about to go somewhere, it then jumped to her having already done it. Or there was no real dive into any sort of emotions – not often, anyway – or a real look at surroundings or situations that I really craved for.

There was no middle ground, no “filler,” I guess you could say. But it wasn’t just that that bothered me, it was my desire to feel something more for what was happening to Jude and what was happening around her.

I didn’t feel as connected as I was hoping because I felt so disconnected because of the jumpy writing – at least for the first two thirds of the story.

And then? Oh man, did it kick off right at the climax of the book, and even the writing got a lot better and I felt like I was following it a lot better than I was before.

The plot was leading up to the grand coronation of one of the princes, and when the thing (I won’t spoil it) happened, and then a lot of chaos ensued, I was shocked. Seriously, I hadn’t been expecting it to go down the way it did, and there was a lot of bloodshed and just… a lot of stuff happening.

The last third of the book really held my attention and, more than once, especially in the last chapter, I had to catch my breath because I was so anxious as to what was going to happen next, how it was going to play out, and if the plan was going to succeed.

Overall, I found that the last third of the book was much more enticing and dynamic than the first two thirds, but that’s not to say it was a bad read. I actually really enjoyed the book and found myself hooked into reading it, despite the flaws that I personally found. And I can’t wait to read the sequel; it’s going to be so good. THAT ENDING THOUGH. UGH, MY HEART.

★★★★☆

Genre: Fantasy

I love fantasy. I always have, really. Being able to read about another world with people who go through similar or more difficult trials than we do in real life is always fun, and reading about the creatures that are often placed into fantasy books always draws me in, as well.

Fantasy isn’t just constricted to high fantasy though, a term that means that it’s set in a whole other universe that there are few similarities to our world, and can include magic, mythical beings, sorcery, etc.

There is also low fantasy, which includes a tale written in our own world, but includes some form of magic or some other telling aspect that makes it fantasy.

There are more sub-genres of fantasy, but let me focus on those two for now.

High fantasy is my preferred story to read. Not only do I get to read about the characters in that setting, I get to imagine that world that the author created and built from the ground up in their minds. It’s incredible to think about. Imagine having to come up with your own system of magic, landscape, society, culture, etc. It’s mind blowing and it makes me feel kind of giddy inside.

Some books that I would recommend that involve high fantasy are:

  • The “Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J Maas. This is a six book YA fantasy series in which the first three books are out. It involves a kickass female assassin named Celaena Sardothian, an evil king, the king’s son, a royal guard, and lot of forbidden elements that fit into this world of no magic. “What? No magic?” It was banished by the king and as you read you find out why it was banished and how. It’s my favorite series to date, so why would I mention it?
  • The Ice Dragon” & “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin. As very popular books, it only fits to mention this series and a companion novel. Set in a world of royals, peasants, kings, and lots of blood and sex, this series is definitely high fantasy. Not only does it include swords, political intrigue, lots of fighting, etc, it includes creatures that are only seen in nightmares, and dragons. Can’t forget the dragons. It’s a very long series, but it’s engaging. I haven’t finished it yet as I’m still working on the first book. I have read and done a review on “The Ice Dragon.”
  • The Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R. Tolkien. As a modern classic this trilogy is an epic fantasy adventure with hobbits, wizards, elves, dwarves, ogres, men, etc. Though I haven’t read the books in their entirety yet, I do plan to this year. I have seen the movies, though, so yay for references!

There are plenty more series I could list, but those give just an example of what high fantasy can be considered as.

Now for low fantasy, I personally think more of these exist than high fantasy, especially in YA. There are plenty of adult high fantasy novels, but there are also low fantasy ones. A few examples are:

  • The Iron Fey” series by Julie Kagawa. Though the setting mostly takes place in faerie, parts of the story take place in the real world, especially when it gets to the second and third book. It’s a story about faeries, a girl who discovers the truth about herself, love, danger, and more.
  • The “Firelight” trilogy by Sophie Jordan. This is a trilogy about dragons and love and the dangers of being a dragon in our world. With the magical aspect of dragons that can change into humans, but are being hunted by humans, it makes for a great low fantasy trilogy to read.
  • The “Vampire Academy” series by Richelle Mead. This series is about vampires (duh) that live in our world, but their society is set apart from ours. There are different classifications of vampires and humans and it includes romance, action, and danger. I haven’t finished this whole series, but I figured I’d still list it.

So those are a few examples of low fantasy books, but there are obviously many more books that include many different situations and everything other than what I’ve listed above.

Now I didn’t include sci-fi in this list because I believe that it deserves its own post, which will be coming soon!

I also didn’t include graphic novels or manga in these lists because there are so many different kinds that I wouldn’t know where to begin… Well, except with some of my favorites, but that’s for another post.

Fantasy is one of those genres that I believe will always flourish because there seems to be a need to escape the real world and reach out to ones that don’t (or might) exist.

What are some of your favorite fantasy books? Do you prefer high fantasy or low fantasy? Series, standalones, trilogies? Let me know in the comments!