Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Book Description:

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.

Reviewer's Copy: Hardcover

Source: Purchased

My Thoughts:

I fell in love with the brutality of the prologue. It told of the time before Jude and her sisters were whisked off to Faerieland. It was enough of a peek into the characters lives and personality during distressing and life-threatening times. As the story unraveled, the surface level that was shown in the prologue morphed into a deep sea of secrets. The characters had so much layers to them. It was a joy to peel them off one by one and witness what’s underneath.

Jude was mortal, born to die like all humans, in Faerieland. She was numb of panic and danger, to the point that she became bold. Her skill with a blade was something that I truly admired. But there was more to Jude than just being the mortal daughter of the redcap general’s deceased wife. Her mortality and the fact that she was prone to the various perils of Faerieland gave her reason to fight even harder and to beat the Gentry around her. Her dedication and grit was admirable. On top of that, she was a fast learner and clever. Although she was human, she had a drop of Madoc’s thirst for violence.

Taryn was Jude’s more feminine twin. She was the innocent girl that painters have long dreamt to paint. She was the one who insisted Jude to follow the rules - the one who held Jude back. However, I didn’t find her likable from the start. There was something about the lack of action, the lack of urgency and the lack of dedication in her character that bothered me. Taryn always wanted to be on the safe side.

Madoc’s character was so incredibly well-developed and well-written. The redcap general, who had the blood of Jude’s parents in his hands, has captivated me. He was bloodthirsty, as a redcap naturally was, however he also had a great sense of responsibility and honor. He took Jude and her sisters back to his estate in Faerieland and raised them. He personally tutored them on bladesmanship, fought for their right to be educated as the Gentry children were and provided for them. I saw his softer, more vulnerable side, when Jude came home almost naked after a bullying incident. He was so powerless because his adopted daughter was powerless. She was human and vulnerable to such pranks from her Gentry classmates. He was the strongest general of the High King, have defeated thousands of foes and captured kingdoms for the crown, and yet he couldn’t save his daughter from this pain and humiliation. It made my heart melt. His talent was true cunning, always plotting and always one step ahead.

Cardan was complex. He was not an easy character to like. There was too much cruelty around his persona. Although his character had portions to it: considerate, evil, annoying, vulnerable. It was hard to know who he really was and what he really wanted even with his exposed layers. I wish we could have known more about him in the first book. I’m looking forward to knowing more about Cardan and perhaps, finally understanding him, in the sequel.

Politics in fantasy was always a welcome detail for me. The story was dripping with it. There were so much attacks and counterattacks, hidden meaning and codes, secrets brushed under rugs and shadows lurking. I sat at the edge of my seat sometimes, holding my breath as I waited for good luck or bad luck to befall the characters. Everyone was plotting in the hopes of getting the upper hand. It was like watching a violent game of chess, pawns coming forward only to be terminated. Just like in chess, even the king and queen were not safe. Each chapter enticed and teased the readers before reaching a crescendo and exploding into action. However, I felt like there was more to be explored in the characters and lives of the princes, to better understand the unfolding of the story.

Overall, I loved the family dynamics that the story tackled. It was thick with tension, complexity, misunderstandings, pain and history. It was such a problematic setup and yet, I still got the sense of family in the story. It wasn’t the best scenario but they were trying. The writing itself was fluid and enjoyable. It was easy to fall prey to its hypnotic quality.

The Cruel Prince was a heart-stopping fantasy filled with action, cunning and adrenaline. It was beautiful and dark, filled with feels and quotes. I highly recommend this to avid readers of fantasy and readers looking for fey stories, particularly the darker ones.

4.5 Cupids = Obsessive book love.
I strongly recommend this!