When the queen of faerie literature announced the beginning of a new viciously magical trilogy in 2018, I swore to sell my soul to get my hands on The Cruel Prince. (Or, at least, someone else’s soul if not mine. I’m flexible.)
Being enamored with her past works, like Tithe and The Darkest Part of the Forest, I knew I’d be a fan of her newest tome. However, whoa, this one was even more excellently twisty and unapologetically clever than I expected. And, I was living for it.
The Cruel Prince in 3 Sentences
While she loves the vicious games of the Folk and is training to be a knight, she’s secretly always terrified. When the cruel youngest Prince Cardan doesn’t stop making her life miserable, Jude decides to fight back with schemes and manipulations. She’s tired of being scared, and if they’re going to be cruel, oh, she can play at that game.While she loves the vicious games of the Folk and is training to be a knight, she’s secretly always terrified.
THESE FAIRIES ARE NOTHING LIKE TINKERBELL
Forget all the Disney versions of cute fluttery fairies with wings — here we delve into the more accurate images of the Good Folk. This is about monsters in the woods, enchantments, and glamours. These are the fairies that lead you into a revel until you dance yourself to death.
Redcaps dip their caps in their fallen enemies blood and humans are bewitched into being slaves and working themselves to the bone. However, it’s also glamorous and beautiful. Every one of the folk is drop-dead gorgeous (and they don’t know it) and they live for revels and elegant gowns and finding favor with the High King or his royal children.
This story is about the fairies’ wicked wit and charm. They truly are creatures you’d fall madly in love with and then cut yourself on their jagged edges.
WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK RELATABLE?
Set mostly in Faerie, you’d think this would be a dazzling adventure with a plot the average teen isn’t going to relate to in real life. Because, no you’re not about to ride a toad to school or dine on pomegranates cakes and canary wine.
Holly Black crafts this book with so many relatable circumstances for our heroine, Jude, to face. Jude is mortal and living in a world where she doesn’t belong. Who hasn’t felt that growing up? She feels weak amongst fairies who could glamour her to doing whatever they want (she protects herself with rowan berries and salt) and when Prince Cardan and his evil posse set their sights on making her life miserable… what can she do against such bullying?
Jude goes to school with Cardan, she may be the (adopted) daughter of the king’s military commander, but she’s bullied every single day and nearly fed to nixies. She’s used to getting dirt kicked on her food. She feels small and powerless until she decides to take power back.
I loved how it featured this super common storyline: kid bullied at school decides to take down the bullies. Only there is magic and swordplay and enchantments and a prince who entrances as much as disgusts you.
Not to mention Jude’s love and wars with her sisters feel very close-to-home, too. Her twin, Taryn, is vying to get married to a fairy gentry and have a comfortable life and Jude’s half-sister (half fairy and half mortal), Vivian, would do anything to get out of Fairie and live with her mortal girlfriend.
Maddoc, a redcap and the king’s general and Vivian’s real father, slew Jude’s human parents, but out of respect for fairy law, he adopted Jude and Taryn even though they haven’t a drop of fairy blood. They hate him, but also love him. He loves them, but also trains them up like fairy children: be vicious and clever and play tricks and games. So if you thought your family was dysfunctional, well, meet this lot.
IS THE ROMANCE POISONOUS?
Right up front, we know that Jude and Cardan are going to have something between them. However, we also know he’s making her life miserable, and Jude is powerless to stop him. This makes for a very problematic relationship.
The book doesn’t fling them together or romanticize abuse, though. Instead, it delves into whys and keeps the romance to two sharks circling each other but barely acknowledging their attraction. It’s a romance that knows it’s unhealthy and it unpacks the thoughts behind it.
GET READY TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD
The book is quite vocal about how mortals don’t fit in Fairie (it will eat you and spit out your bones!), but Holly Black writes so downright entrancingly, it’s impossible not to wish you could visit, too. From the immaculate setting descriptions to the lush riches of the palace and gentry life, to the entrancing silver weapons and crowns forged with the power to twist the earth — it’s incredible.
Everything is beautiful and deadly, and the writing reflects that. Also, the plot doesn’t let you sit down comfortably either. Get ready for plot twists and mind games and blood and betrayal. It doesn’t get too graphic or gory, but it doesn’t pretend the Fair Folk are soft sweethearts either.
IS THIS BOOK ON YOUR WISH LIST YET?
It is beautifully vicious and mercilessly gorgeous, which I thrive on as a reader. I rarely find books that delve into the darker side of folklore (think: Grimm vs. Disney) and this one well and truly sunk its talons into my imagination.
It features the most dysfunctional family ever, a fatal attraction to a prince who is hiding something, and a girl who isn’t afraid to get bloody and wield her beautiful sword. Be entranced. Read this. However, don’t eat the fairy fruit.
About the Author
CG Drews is a YA book blogger with the goal to read every book in existence. She’s aiming for immortality for this. When not reading, she writes novels and blogs at paperfury.com.