The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The Cruel Prince is a YA fantasy adventure by Holly Black. It takes place mostly in the Fairie Realm. I recognized a lot of the lore from what I have read in traditional Fey stories, even some Shakespeare, which I thought would be interesting.
The story surrounds a girl named Jude. Other major characters include Caden, the prince to the High King, and his friends Valerian, Nicasa and Locke, Jude’s twin sister Taryn and their half-sister Vivienne, Magnus the General to the King and also Jude’s paternal guardian. The story is told from Jude’s perspective which is very affected by her understanding that the Fey and the Fairie world for that matter are beautiful and dangerous. From the moment she gets there, she is taught how to protect herself, what not to eat, what to do to keep her from getting manipulated or “glamoured” by the immortal Fey who don’t have a very high view of mortals, especially mortals without extraordinary skills of some kind of art. So, to me, the characters are limited in the way they are developed because it is all from her perspective which is highly prejudiced on these facts. Some of the actions of others aren’t really explained or understood, it’s because “that’s just the way it is” as Jude sees it. Jude’s violent past and present also affect her perspective.
Jude and her twin sister Taryn and half-sister Vivienne are taken to the Fairie world after witnessing the murder of their parents. The murderer then becomes their father (Magnus) and raises them among the high court fey because he is the General of the Army to the High King. Because of his status, they are educated among the basically rich kids who look down on their mortality. Caden and his friends, especially, torture Jude and Taryn. And the two sisters have different reactions to that bullying. The current High King Eldred is stepping down to give the crown to one of his children, and Prince Dain seems to be the front-runner. Jude is hoping to become a knight for Prince Dain, essentially giving her power to protect herself from her enemies. As the coronation nears, there is a lot of intrigue and deception, and Jude must choose who to trust.
One of the themes is having power and using power and desiring power. And also how power can corrupt and betray.
The writing flows pretty well. I’m not a big fan of the entire scene or what everyone is wearing being described, and there was a good bit of that in here. I’m very plot driven and character driven, which I think is done well in this book, but I found myself skimming the paragraphs that described everyone’s clothes. There is a lot of foreshadowing, and I didn’t fully trust everything Jude saw because the prejudices were pretty clear, so some of the twists were not surprises to me, but I did like how everything connected in the end. When things were finally revealed to Jude, the author had some secrets that I didn’t catch right away that played into the plot.
There is some profanity in the book, mostly towards the end with one character. Most of the language was very lore based so it didn’t have as much traditional profanity. I feel like that one character use of profanity signified their rejection of the Fairie world and the longing of the mortal world.
There is a reference to the “greening of the gown” which is a euphemism for sex, there is one scene where a character strips off their clothing, but most of the actual content just includes kissing. There is some romance and it does play into the plot or subplots, but I felt like this was more of an action adventure than a romance, so the sexual content was at a low.
There is a lot of violence in this book. I mean, the story starts with the descriptions of Jude’s parents being murdered. The Fairie world is very violent and Jude becomes very violent as a result. There is a lot of blood and fight scenes and murder scenes throughout the book.
Overall, I think the book was well written, though slow at times. It’s going to be a trilogy and I am interested in where the author will take the story from where it ends in this book. Of course, the next book is not slated to be released until next year, so I’m not sure if I will remember to get the next book at that point. I would recommend late teens early twenties for this book just for the amount of violence. Jude does learn how much violence and the desire for power can corrupt, but believing she is far too gone, relies heavily on these things to try to do what is best. So I would be aware of that. I give it three and a half stars. It wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve read, but it’s good for its genre.
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