‘The Cruel Prince’ wicked, enchanting

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Princes are usually dreamy and chivalrous, right? Aren’t faeries docile and friendly creatures? These stereotypes are all wrong, at least in Holly Black’s novel “The Cruel Prince,” the first in “The Folk of the Air” series, where readers can’t trust anyone.

Holly Black’s world of faeries is very well-thought out and tugs readers into the story from the very first page, keeping them enchanted and standing on the tips of their toes until the end with a threatening and tense atmosphere that never allows you to relax.

The dangerous and magical land of Faerie is seen vividly through the eyes of the main protagonist Jude Duarte, a mortal girl forced to grow up in Faerieland alongside her two sisters after being whisked away and raised by their parents’ murderer.

Despite being mortal, Jude has adapted to the world of Faerie and has accepted it as her home, though struggles to establish her place when so many of the fey loathe humans, especially the youngest and wickedest of the sons of the High King, Prince Cardan. Jude longs to defy Cardan and the other fey who look down on her mortality and soon finds herself caught up in treacherous court plots and bloodshed while trying to make a place for herself in the High Court.

Jude is a very refreshing, different main protagonist that stands out from other heroines in the young adult genre. She is an atypical heroine who strives to achieve power, and a female character like Jude isn’t seen often in literature. She’s strong and hardens herself in order to achieve her ambitions, no matter how cruel she may seem. She loves and cares for people, but she’s not afraid to scheme and fights her way towards what she wants.

Just as Jude strays out of female protagonist standards, Cardan is not a stereotypical prince. He fails his princely duties, and his brother doesn’t let him forget it. Cardan has been traumatized by his past and his only escape is through drinking, thus came to his flaw of becoming an alcoholic, and his skills in fighting are rather laughable instead of being a typical sword-dueling prince.

His cruelty is not because of the expected power that comes with being a prince, but it’s Cardan’s way of getting through the pain he has endured. He’s a very reckless and unpredictable character to follow.

Most, if not all, the characters in the novel all have their own unique characteristics that really exhibit the world of Faerie and how deadly and tricky the fey can be. Though regardless of how terrible and scheming characters can be, Black makes you root for them and yearn to see what happens next.

The fey are an interesting topic to write about, and, this not being Black’s first book centered around these mythical creatures, she intertwines this beautiful world with her other novels. And no, it is not important to read her other novels, “The Darkest Part of the Forest” or the “Tithe” series, before picking up this book.

Black is the type of author who doesn’t just write to tell the audience about the world her characters live in but writes as to bring them along for the ride. Her imagination is compared to no other. The language she uses and the way she develops the characters creates a clear image. We were as physically into the book as one could get, as well as mentally and emotionally.

Believe us when we say you can’t trust anyone. Its realistic one should only count on themselves, but after everything Jude goes through, there is sympathy for her. Jude was pure, but by the end, she found out how not to be useless and how she could shape her own destiny, no matter the sacrifices. By now it is safe to assume Jude only trusts herself, as anyone would be while hiding any sort of secret.

Even the typical romance trope displayed throughout YA novels is twisted on its head in this novel. In fact, there’s not really romance at all. There may be small crushes, but there is also a theme of dark longing and desire that really makes this novel stand out. There is no lovey-dovey romance because this isn’t a fluffy read. As this novel is centered around the world of Faerie, a deadly and tricky place, the plot and atmosphere follow along perfectly to display a treacherous world and story.

The ending is a hard one to predict. Black is good at never giving too much away as to what the ending could be. The twist is surprising but well planned. It leaves you wanting to devour the next book immediately. If you’re looking for a dark, entertaining fantasy story to lose yourself in, and refreshing, twisted characters to get attached to, Holly Black’s “The Cruel Prince” is definitely an extravagant book to delve into.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
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