A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
THE CRUEL PRINCE (The Folk of the Air #1) by HOLLY BLACK (2018)
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black comes thirteen years after the publication of her first book, Tithe. With the release of Tithe and her subsequent books, Ms. Black has enjoyed great success. She’s even been called the Queen of Faeries by her fans for her contributions to the young adult world. Nearly all of her books involve the Fair Folk, and The Cruel Prince is no exception.
The Cruel Prince tells the story of a girl named Jude Duarte, who was kidnapped by faeries when she was a child. She, along with her sister Taryn, are half-faerie, half human, while their older sister, Vivienne, is entirely fey. After the murder of their parents, Jude, Taryn, and Vivienne live out their lives in Faerieland, where Jude is caught up in a web of conspiracies and lies that threaten not just her life, but the lives of everyone she holds dear.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a Holly Black book. I remember picking up Tithe when I was much younger, and I just as vividly remember putting it down. I don’t know why I wasn’t interested in that specific story, because I was certainly interested in The Cruel Prince. The book grabs you from the very beginning and doesn’t let you go for all of its 370 pages. Many of my bookish friends have raved about this novel, but I wasn’t sure whether or not I should trust the hype surrounding it.
Then I read it, and I understand the hype completely.
The Cruel Prince is exactly as it sounds. It’s full of cruel people (faeries) doing cruel things to one another. Jude and Taryn and Vivienne’s father, Madoc, is a redcap, an especially violent kind of faerie and he’s raised his daughters in his image. Jude especially takes after Madoc. She isn’t afraid to do drastic things to get what she wants. She kills people, lies, cheats, and steals. That sort of morally gray violence is something oft strived for in YA novels, but it never quite feels achieved. Only in The Cruel Prince, the “morally gray” label does feel earned. No one is good, no one is evil, and everyone is lying nearly all the time.
Jude is a great character, and the full-blooded royal faeries she interacts with are interesting as well. None of the characters are as fleshed out as Jude is, but the worldbuilding is whimsical and the characters that are present are interesting to read about. I was surprised to realize about halfway through the book that Madoc might just be my favorite character. Murderous, dutiful, bloodthirsty Madoc who wears a cap soaked in his enemies’ blood. Madoc’s real nuance shows in his interactions with his children. He clearly loves all of his daughters and his son, Oak, and wants to do right by his family—through whatever means necessary.
Aside from the characters, the plot is absolutely full of twists and turns. There are so many things that happened in this novel that made me literally yell WHAT?! at the page. Some of the twists I saw coming, while others—particularly the twist at the end—totally blindsided me. Overall, The Cruel Prince is a fast-paced book about horrible people doing horrible things. There are even some cameos from characters who were in Tithe. If you’re looking for a novel with a clear-cut hero, then The Cruel Prince isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a novel with plot-twists, violence, and enough death to rival Game of Thrones, then The Cruel Prince might be right up your alley.
On that note, you can check out our copy of The Cruel Prince from the Argenta Library today!