Sometimes you read a book and at the end you think “Oh well that was fun.” Other times you read a book that is downright awful. But sometimes you read a book that takes your breath away. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is one of those books. It’s another novel set in the land of the Fae, but it is completely different from any other book about Faeries. I was intrigued when I saw the cover and even more interested when I read the raving reviews. So when I finished my last book, I picked it up as soon as I could. I have not looked back since. But what makes The Cruel Prince such an amazing book? Well, sit down and relax because I will explain.
What is it about?
GoodReads knows how to explain it better than I do:
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.
One of the main reasons why I enjoyed this book was because of its compelling storytelling. It doesn’t linger on endless pages with filler, just to add more to the word count. It shows that world-building can be done with only necessary scenes. I mean, no offence, but I am not interested in reading about a character’s meal six times when it doesn’t add anything to the story. The Cruel Prince constantly puts you on edge. There were times I was certain something was going to happen. Instead, I found out the story went in the complete opposite direction. This ensured that I kept being invested in the story, even during slower scenes. While Black doesn’t shy away from familiar tropes, she still manages to surprise.
Characters that feel real
Another reason why The Cruel Prince is a great story, is that the characters felt so real. Characters that appeared kind at first, turned out to be bad. The ones who seemed so cruel in the beginning, won my sympathy at the end. The drama was never over the top, but yet made me feel like the stakes were high. I especially loved Jude. She’s a mortal navigating herself in a world that looks down upon her. Her past has scarred her and she is frightened, yet still very brave. This is a quality that writers often forget to put in their main characters. The main character always has to be the fearless one, but Jude is so human that it is almost painful. Black is also not afraid to let her characters fail and be vulnerable.
Betrayal and Choices
One of the main themes of the novel is betrayal and how the choices we make in our lives shape us into the person we end up being. The story shows that betrayal can run deep, not just between friends and enemies, but also among family. It’s an interesting concept and one that Black has weaved into the story so well. As I also mentioned before, there is hardly any romance involved. The romance that is involved, leads back to the betrayal. This is not a matter of “who will she choose?”, a familiar trope which is overused in YA fiction. The Cruel Prince tells an extraordinary story about a normal teenager in peculiar circumstances. And while Jude is trying to save Faerie, she also remains a teenager. This is what makes this book so very intriguing.
If you want to get lost in the world of Fae, The Cruel Prince is definitely the book you should put on your To-Be-Read pile. The magical and dangerous world of Faerie will surely sweep you away. There are characters you will fall in and out of love with. This book will make you feel so many things at once. Honestly, you will have a hard time putting this book down. But after you’ve finished it, the real agony starts. How long until the second book in the series will be released?