Book Review – The Cruel Prince

If you’re a fan of Holly Black, and / or follow any of the Hot Key Ambassadors on our social media accounts, you might have seen the build up in celebrating How The King Of Elfhame Learned To Hate Stories a few weeks ago. A novella focusing on Cardan, this book of short stories is as beautifully illustrated as it is written. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy in advance of release because of my Ambassador role, and absolutely fell in love with it.

In the build up to the release, we did multiple different events, including a readalong of the series. This was actually my first time reading the books – shocker, I know, but it’s only really been this year that I’ve allowed myself to really sink into my love of YA fantasy, so the fact I’m still getting around to classics in the genre is just part of the journey. I’m going to review the books in series order, just because that’s the ‘right’ thing to do, even if I did finish The King Of Elfhame before the last two books.

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 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.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal 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. 

The first thing to say about this book is that if you’re looking for a comfortable, happily ever after, everyone is happy, type story – this is not for you. The same being, if you want a protagonist who makes you feel like they’re a great person, again – this is not for you. Jude is perfectly imperfect, and I love that about her. She’s been taught from a very young age that she has to fight for what she wants and needs, and to see danger as something to run towards, not from. These characteristics make her a somewhat uncomfortable protagonist at times, but that is what I really enjoyed about her; if she had been perfect, she wouldn’t have been nearly as relatable. She’s somewhat brutal, but having been through everything she experiences, it would be unusual if she wasn’t. I guess it could be said she’s naturally human in a faerie world.

I know that stories about faeries have grown in popularity over recent years, but this is only the second set of faerie themed stories I’ve read after ACOTAR. They couldn’t be more different, with different rules and systems, especially with this world focusing a lot on traditional – and created – superstitions as rules to keep Jude and her human twin Taryn safe. Taryn’s name might sound familiar, because she was ended up on my Characters I Love To Hate list from last week. High praise, in a backward way; as I said in my post, it takes skill to write a truly dislikable character!

The book is fast paced, and moves at a speed that you really have to pay attention to, or you might miss something significant. There’s so much packed into these pages, it really is quite amazing. I loved the dynamic development between Jude and Cardan – obviously – but also the dynamics between Jude and just about everyone she interacts with. Being slightly prickly, and being human, she stands out, and I loved watching her forge a place for herself, no matter how many times she is told no.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for my copy of the series; reviews of the other books to come at a later date!


    1. Absolutely, it was such a great dynamic to watch and explore! Have you read How The King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories yet? It’s beautifully illustrated and a great addition – seeing some of those moments from Cardan’s perspective… amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

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