The Wicked King [REREAD]

- Holly Black

Goodreads Book Blurb:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself that strong.

Jude has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were biddable. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a faerie world.

Series / Genres:

My [REREAD] Review:

↓ scroll down for original review
solid, good read:
Definitely better on the reread, The Wicked King is a little too scattered to be quite as good as The Cruel Prince, but I still very much enjoyed it.

Once, I was the one to throw him off balance, the one to ignite his anger and shred his self-control, but somehow the tables turned. Every day since, I’ve felt the slippage.
As I gaze at him now, stretched out on my bed, I feel more off balance than ever.

Jude’s undercurrent of fear has changed but is still present. No longer only afraid for her life, now she is afraid of losing her tenuous hold on power and on Cardan. They’re still very much denying any feelings for each other, though the outright hate has lessened. It’s too difficult for either of them to forget or forgive their history. I am very okay with this – if they’d moved past it and fallen in love right away I’d be here complaining about it. This slow, tortuous, complicated burn is perfect.

"And why shouldn’t I delight to see you squirm? You tricked me," Cardan says. "You played me for a fool, and now I am the King of Fools."
"The High King of Fools," I say, a sneer in my voice. Our gazes meet, and there’s a shock of mutual understanding that our bodies are pressed too closely. I am conscious of my skin, of the sweat beading on my lip, of the slide of my thighs against each other. I am aware of the warmth of his neck beneath my twined fingers, of the prickly brush of his hair and how I want to sink my hands into it. I inhale the scent of him—moss and oak wood and leather. I stare at his treacherous mouth and imagine it on me.

I do wish Jude had been better at planning. She was so good at plotting and playing Madoc’s game in The Cruel Prince, but she seems to have let her new job and fears wear her out. It’s not until she has to start reacting to the actions of others that we start to see a spark of the old Jude, but even then it’s a watered-down version (pardon the pun). Too quick to trust those she shouldn’t, too slow to trust those she should; it’s a recipe for disaster.

"The three of you have one solution to every problem. Murder. No key fits every lock." Cardan gives us all a stern look, holding up a long-fingered hand with my stolen ruby ring still on one finger. "Someone tries to betray the High King, murder. Someone gives you a harsh look, murder. Someone disrespects you, murder. Someone ruins your laundry, murder.'

I will never get over how quickly Cardan turns on Jude once he gets what he wants. Knowing where it’s going doesn’t take away the delicious sting of having the rug pulled out from under her immediately after giving him a modicum of trust. Love it.
I remember being wholly disappointed in The Queen of Nothing, so I’m hoping it also improves on the reread, though I’m not expecting much.

My [ORGINAL] Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:

Once upon a time, there was a human girl stolen away by faeries, and because of that, she swore to destroy them.

After The Cruel Prince, I had high expectations for The Wicked King. Jude’s navigation of the intricacies of faerie politics was incredible, and I loved the taut push-and-pull of her relationship with Cardan. Unfortunately, all of these factors, while wonderful, made the narrative drag at times. By the halfway point, I was dying for something to actually happen besides the constant plotting and longing.

“If you’re playing with Taryn, Madoc will murder you; I won’t even get a chance.”
I sheath my knife and head toward the door.
“Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder,” Locke calls after me.
“We would be surprised to find that,” I call back.

I have to say, apart from a few key moments, Locke felt superfluous. In The Cruel Prince, he was shallow and predictable, but this time he felt tacky and obvious. He continues to be my least favourite character – not because of his actions but because of how he is written.

Get used to the weight, Madoc had told her. You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself that strong.
It will hurt. Pain makes you strong.

Previously, Jude and Madoc’s relationship was intriguing (being raised by the man who killed your parents is likely to create conflict), but I loved the exploration of both its current status and its evolution over time in The Wicked King. Madoc has to keep re-evaluating Jude because of her power-play and her actions as Cardan’s seneschal. This is interspersed with flashbacks of him training Jude and Taryn, which allows for the development of depth and complexity in their relationship.

and the single last thing in my head: that I like him better than I’ve ever liked anyone and that of all the things he’s ever done to me, making me like him so much is by far the worst.

The members of the Court of Shadows became real individual characters with histories and relationships. This allowed Cardan to evolve, as his interactions with the Bomb, Roach, and Ghost reveal more of his character and abilities. I think he matured in his role, especially when he started questioning decisions and suggesting better alternatives. It was nice to see that as Cardan and Jude got closer and began to trust each other more, it didn’t erase their past. It’s too common for characters to have goldfish memories to support a love story – being attracted to someone doesn’t make you forget cruel and manipulative actions. Cardan and Jude, while fighting their attraction, stay hyper-aware of each other – constantly on guard against the next blindside. And when one of them finally lets down their guard, they are rewarded almost immediately with the outcome they knew, deep down, was inevitable.

I did enjoy The Wicked King; there are some wonderful moments, and Black created a real sense of anticipation. However, I think my expectations were too high after The Cruel Prince and the change in pace and the change in roles of almost every character required some acclimatisation. Where The Cruel Prince was all twists and turns with misdirection and cruelty, The Wicked King is slow, bubbling, deadly truths that are plotting and threatening to be exposed.

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