Review: The Cruel Prince - Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air #1

My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Fantasy
Published January 2nd 2018 by Hot Key Books

Source: Purchased
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.

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.
I read this book with my favourite ladies: Amy from A Magical World of Words and Uma from Books.Bags.Burgers. As always it was a blast buddy reading with these two!

This is my first Holly Black book... And while I've had some of her others on my TBR, I actually received this one through a bookish box from Magic & Mischief (Fantastic Faes and Where to Find Them was January's box).

I'm kind of kicking myself right now, because on the surface, The Cruel Prince is everything that I love in a book and with so many of my trusted book blogger friends out there absolutely LOVING this book, and with so many absolutely GORGEOUS pictures floating around on #bookstagram, I thought that this was a no-brainer 5 star minimum read for me. So what went wrong? Why are there only three stars on this review???? The short answer is 'I don't know'. For the longer and slightly more confusing answer, read on!

The main character is Jude, a human girl living in faerie with her twin, Taryn and her half sister, Vivienne. Madoc, the redcap general for the King of Faerie is the father of Vivi and murdered the girl's mother and her husband (Taryn and Jude's father).

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”

Cardan is supposed to be an antihero, but while I saw what the author was trying to quietly point out while the book developed I'm afraid that I never did a 180 and started loving him. It was clear that he wasn't who he was being made out to be from the very beginning, but he also was not the strongest character for me. Other than using his charisma and charm to get his way he didn't seem to have many great qualities. He had every opportunity at education - scholarly and otherwise - and yet he hadn't honed anything other than a cruel and heartless reputation. He just was. Perhaps a younger me or me a few hundred fantasy books ago would have enjoyed him more... But the 'being-cruel-to-you-for-your-own-good' cliche and the 'tortured upbringing' just didn't cut it for me in this one.

On the surface these relationships have extraordinary complexities (the sisters themselves, the girls and Madoc, the step mother and the girls, Jude and Taryn and Cardan and his mean clique') but I felt like they weren't explored enough and I just didn't understand the motivation for some of the interactions.

I've always loved an underdog, and you can't get much more of an underdog than a human in faerie, yearning not only to be able to compete with the fae, but to best them. I truly wanted to love Jude and root for her and yet I found her mostly annoying and I hated that she seemed to settle so easily with the 'that's just the way it is' attitude.

After a pretty epic prologue it was quite a slow start into the world and while I was never exactly bored I didn't really feel compelled. Yes, it is dark and brutal and the writing and descriptions were great, but at the same time I never felt like the characters were really truly developed and the plot itself never really captivated me. In fact, I felt like the plot was a little all over the place with some serious pacing issues - for a large portion of the book we are watching the high school antics of Jude and Cardan (and by antics I also mean some horribly intense bullying) which culminated in a tournament that I thought would be a lot more and mean a lot more than it actually did, and then suddenly we're talking about the politics and power plays that impact all of Faerie.

Faeries are manipulative and deceitful and ruthless and this book showcased that, but at the same time I felt like Black leaned on what we already know about these tricksy fae and the world building just wasn't enough for me even though there was a gorgeous map at the beginning of the book.

There wasn't actually any shippable romance for me and I loathed Locke (one of Cardan's mean clique) and after Cardan was that - I'm being horrible to you for your own good - kind of guy I couldn't get behind that either. I wish I could have seen more of Vivi and Heather.

It wasn't all bad... I mean, while I was reading it I liked it well enough to keep reading and the writing is beautiful and the premise intriguing but unfortunately nothing really gripped me and kept me wanting more. In saying that though I'll probably pick up the next book just to see where Black is going with this one.
“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks. Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”

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