The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books / Hot Key Books
Publication Date: January 2nd 2018
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
This book gave me two very different feelings; indifference and complete investment.
I was thankfully gifted The Cruel Prince as an ebook from Hot Key Books, and wasn’t surprised at how much attention it got when I ran a poll with what books I should read while making the long journey to visit extended family over Christmas. It won by a landslide, and while Holly Black books are usually a hit or miss for me, I got excited at the thought of being whisked away to a faerie land where fairy is spelled like ‘faerie’ and the creatures of the land are not cute with magic wands and wings.
Unfortunately, that’s not what I got in the first 67% of the book.
The Cruel Prince, to me, could not decide what kind of book it wanted to be. At first, it seemed like a self-aware novel; a faerie land living alongside the human realm, where the protagonist felt apart of both. She would shop with her sister at Target, say stuff like ‘lighten up, jerk!’ when in conflict with magical creatures, but then she would also ride a giant toad with a saddle around it and wear dresses made of leaves and feathers. Her step-father has green skin and her baby step-brother can glamour her into slapping herself until she’s red in the face. I kind of liked it; Holly Black’s novels always have the mundane and the strange walking side by side. It was the same with The Darkest Part of the Forest (which I adored) and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (which was a bit meh) – like I said, Holly Black’s books are a hit or miss.
This concept of Jude feeling out of place in both worlds went on for quite a long time, and didn’t in fact stop. This, thrown in with being severely bullied by Carden (the cruel prince in question) and his awful friends also goes on for so long that I started to feel really uncomfortable. It got to the point where I felt like a bystander just letting it happen. I’ve never been bullied this severely, but I think I have a responsibility to say that if you’re affected by seriously and severe bullying in entertainment you consume, and you’re going to read this book, now you know.
This goes on for most of the book, and I found myself wanting to DNF it a few times. When I’m reading a book and I can feel myself wanting to put it down, I know it’s not going well. I don’t like to waste my time, and it felt like I was doing exactly that. But THEN, as it read 67% on my Kindle, when my mother was calling me in because the Sunday roast was ready, I couldn’t stop reading!
The story completely turned around and the drama started, the political intrigue, the distrusting of characters all reared their beautiful heads. And it was like, where the hell were you all when the grip of my kindle was getting weaker and weaker? It’s not a plot twist or anything, I’m not spoiling it when I say it got interesting, but it’s a bit weird that I have to say that. The whole book should be interesting!
After tweeting about it a few times, I saw that I wasn’t alone. Many felt like it was worth sticking to until the end where it leaves you wanting the next book as much as how you just wanted any other book when you began reading The Cruel Prince. So, if you’re just starting out or even a third into it, keep going, there is something about this book that’s meant for it to blow up in popularity come the second one.