The Cruel Prince by Holly Black has been at the top of my reading list since I heard about it last summer, so I was super excited when it finally came out at the beginning of the year. I pre-ordered the book, cleared my schedule, and settled in for an amazing adventure. I was not disappointed. I have mentioned before that I love a good fairy story so I may be biased, but I found this one particularly difficult to put down. The characters are morally ambiguous, the court politics are dark and intriguing, and the plot continuously throws twists at every turn. As soon as I thought I knew where the story was heading, Black surprised me by taking the story in another direction.
The main character, Jude, was taken from her home in the mortal world when she was only a child, along with her two sisters, Taryn, and Vivienne. The girls were forced to watch as their parents were murdered by a fairy named Madoc. They later find out this is because Vivienne is actually his child who was stolen from him when their mother was still pregnant. The three sisters are then raised among the fairy gentry. Jude has never found it easy. While she can’t imagine going back to the mortal world, she doesn’t fit in among the fairies. No one will let her forget this fact, Prince Cardan least of all.
Cardan is the youngest of the royal family. He will never wear the crown, and he will never be the most beloved. He’s too cruel to ever gain anyone’s love or trust. But he has a special love of torturing Jude. His disdain for her drives her to prove that she can be something that he should fear. In the end, she proves more powerful than anyone could have imagined – Jude may just be more dangerous than she ever thought she could be.
Black uses Jude’s love for her sisters and hatred of Cardan to drive the story forward. It is these emotions which push Jude to enter into schemes and plots which she would never have otherwise dreamed about. In the end, her emotions could lead to her becoming or to her downfall – either way, they will decide the future of the entire fairy kingdom.