You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her brother safe. To do so, she 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 easy to control. 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 own 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.
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.