The Cruel Prince

- Holly Black

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

almost perfect:

Here’s why I don’t like these stories: They highlight that I am vulnerable. No matter how careful I am, eventually I’ll make another misstep. I am weak. I am fragile. I am mortal.
I hate that most of all.
Even if, by some miracle, I could be better than them, I will never be one of them.

The Cruel Prince should be a case study for authors trying to write unlikeable characters. Everyone in this book is terrible, and the lines between good and evil have been so blurred, they barely exist.

The way The Cruel Prince is written, it feels like anything could happen at any time, and boy, does it. I mean, any book that starts with murder and kidnapping sets an expectation for the rest of the story to maintain that intensity. And, somehow, Black makes it work. The first half maintains a surprising level of anticipation and anxiety while introducing the setting and characters. But, once you start to feel like you have a handle on where the story is going, something changes. Sometimes it’s small, and it feels like a small side-step or diversion before continuing, and sometimes it feels like every action until this point has been a waste because the entire game has changed.

There is not a single likeable character here; they’re all petty, cruel bullies, picking on whoever is weaker at the moment. And it’s absolutely glorious. There is so much depth to explore within the characters and their relationships to one another. Locke is the only shallow, predictable one, and it serves to illuminate how much more complicated everyone else is.

Another high point is the ‘romance’. These characters hate each other so much, and their unavoidable connection is painful and humiliating. It’s so well-written, you can feel the repulsion within their attraction. I’m so conditioned to expect instalove and intense forever love in fae stories, The Cruel Prince was a breath of fresh air. This is most definitely not instalove, and any allusion to how they may feel about one another is avoided at all cost.

The Cruel Prince blew away any expectations I may have had before I started reading. I didn’t think so many twists and turns could be executed while still telling an overarching narrative that made sense. It makes me so happy that this is only the beginning, and I can work my way through the rest of the series now.

I have tried to be better than them, and I have failed.
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.

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