My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: New all-time favorite
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
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.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
This was one of the most hyped releases of the year and it sounded really good, so honestly I was already expecting myself to be sorely disappointed since that is what usually happens when I let myself get swept away in hype. But The Cruel Prince? Definitely worth all of the hype.
From the very first chapter it is very clear what kind of book this will be: a cruel, bloody, deceptive and deliciously morally grey. When Jude’s parents get killed right in front of her eyes, she and her two sisters are whisked away to grow up and live at the High Court of Faerie, to live with their parents’ murderer (who also happens to be the father of one of them) as a new family. But since they are mortal, life with the fey is immensely tough, as many of them despise mortals, and Jude and her sisters face a lot of extreme bullying.
What I adored about the story first of all is the relationship between the sisters and how each sister deals with this massive thing differently. Vivi, the eldest, just wants to return to the mortal world and live with her human girlfriend. Taryn just wants to fit in and marry to find her place. But Jude is ambitious. Despite her parents’ murder, despite her constant fear and despite the bullying, she considers the world of fey her home. And she wants to earn her place, wants to gain the power she needs so she doesn’t need to fear again.
There are no good or bad characters. There are no heroes or villains. Everyone in this story, even Jude, is morally grey. Everybody does terrible things and nobody can really be trusted. Nice guys probably have hidden agendas. The people closest to you can stab you in the back. And the cruelest of them all… well, don’t expect a sweet little redemption story or to find out he’s really a nice guy hidden inside. But still…
Prince Cardan, who is every inch the cruel prince the title suggests, is mean, drunk and selfish. And yet… I am as drawn to his character as Jude is. I started off hating him as much as she did, and though we did not get the dreaded ‘misunderstood bad boy’ trope shoved at us (for which I thank you so much, Holly), I do still need more of him. I even think I ship it? The jury’s still out on that one though. Either way, I just want to point out how deliciously complex, multi-dimensional and morally grey his character, as well as EVERY single character in this book is.
I also can’t review this book without mentioning how wonderfully the world of the fey comes to live while reading. The worldbuilding is so exquisite, from the actual creatures and laws of nature to the politics behind it all. This was my first Holly Black book, but her writing felt so vivid and natural that I am intrigued and ready to try out more of her books so I can dive into other worlds like this.
Plotwise, don’t expect a dull moment while reading this book. From the bloody first chapter until the ending that left me reeling, this story is filled with twists and turns, a whole lot of political intrigue, deception and betrayal and quite some death. And even despite the fast pacing and the action on every page, the characters still manage to shine just as brightly as the plot, which I can only applaud.
I’m kind of kicking myself for reading this so quickly after its release date. Because now, all I can think about is the next few books. And the wait is going to be excruciating.
“What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing. You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down. I promise you this is the least of what I can do.”
“Because you’re like a story that hasn’t happened yet. Because I want to see what you will do. I want to be part of the unfolding of the tale.”
“That’s what comes of hungering for something; you forget to check if it’s rotten before you gobble it down”
“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks. Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”
“No matter how careful I am, eventually I’ll make another misstep. I am weak. I am fragile. I am mortal.”