The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Blurb On The Back:

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.

One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassins abduct all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented for being mortal, Jude realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong.

But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looking over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

10 years ago Jude, her twin sister Taryn and their elder half-sister Vivienne saw their parents murdered in front of them by a Faerie general called Madoc. As Vivienne’s natural father, Madoc assumed responsibility for the three of them, taking them back with him to Faerie to live in his household, raising Jude and Taryn as members of the Faerie Gentry. But while Jude and Taryn had been given true Sight and know all the tricks to combat Faerie magic, neither has ever been allowed to forget that as humans, they are regarded as less than nothing – creatures to be despised and tricked and cast low. And none among the Gentry takes this viciousness quite so far as Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the Faerie High King and leader of a small gang dedicated to making the twins’ life as hellish as possible.

Now aged 17 and with the High King announcing his intention to abdicate, Jude believes that if she can become a Knight, perhaps in the court of Prince Dain (the presumptive heir), then her life could improve because although Vivienne constantly tries to persuade her to return with her to the mortal world, Jude cannot see a life for herself there – not when she’s seen so much magic and beauty. Prince Dain, however, has another plan for Jude – one that seeks to make use of her human ability to lie …

If Jude agrees to his proposal, then she knows it will pit her against other members of the royal family including Prince Cardan, but doing so means betraying those she loves and becoming the worst she can be – because it’s only by becoming as cold and heartless and dangerous as the Faerie she lives with that she can hope to best them …

Holly Black’s YA fantasy novel (the first in a new trilogy) is a vividly written, deftly plotted tale of intrigue, personal discovery, betrayal, family and romance with neatly portrayed central characters, genuine surprises and Black’s signature lush writing style, all of which make for a compelling read that kept me engrossed from beginning to end.

Black’s return to Faerie allows her to expand on and develop the world building that characterised her earlier YA novels (and fans of her MODERN TAILS OF FAERIE TRILOGY will be delighted by cameos from two of its characters). I really enjoyed the politics that she shows here, the courtly intrigue and ambitious machinations of the court’s players and their intentions towards Jude kept me interested, especially when Black took the plot in a direction that I had not been expecting.

Jude is a compelling character – I believed in her attachment to the world of Faerie and her fascination and fear of those who inhabit it and her attitude towards the Gentry forms a neat contrast with those of her twin sister Taryn (who is similarly enchanted but less combative as she seeks to find her own way of fitting in) and Vivi (who wants nothing more than to leave). Black is good at showing how vulnerable both girls are in this world. I also enjoyed the family dynamics on show here – Madoc is a killer but one with his own sense of honour and I believed in the relationship he has and seeks to have with the girls as much as I believed in the concerns showed by his second wife Oriana and the fears she has for their young son Oak.

It’s a shame that Cardan is cut very much from Black’s stock collection of beautiful bad boys who may be more sinned against than sinning and I must admit to rolling my eyes during some of his scenes with Jude where romance seems to be on the cards. Similarly his cohorts were a little too two-dimensional for me (especially Valerian, although events surrounding him promise to overhang the coming books). That said, the developments in the final chapters of the book promise a genuinely interesting dynamic between the two that offer more than a standard I love you/I hate you romance and given the situation that exists at the end of this book, I will definitely be checking out the sequel. </lj-cut>

THE CRUEL PRINCE was released in the United Kingdom on 2nd January 2018. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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