Book Review : The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) By Holly Black
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black tells the story of Jude, who was seven 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.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal 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.
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
A Sneak Peek Into “The Cruel Prince”
On a drowsy Sunday afternoon, a man in a long dark coat hesitated in front of a house on a tree-lined street. He hadn’t parked a car, nor had he come by taxi. No neighbor had seen him strolling along the sidewalk. He simply appeared, as if stepping between one shadow and the next.
The man walked to the door and lifted his fist to knock.
When the knock came, Jude hopped up to answer it. She hoped it might be one of the girls from across the street, wanting to play video games or inviting her for an after-dinner swim.
The tall man stood on their mat, glaring down at her. He wore a brown leather duster despite the heat. His shoes were shod with silver, and they rang hollowly as he stepped over the threshold. Jude looked up into his shadowed face and shivered.
“Mom,” she yelled. “Mooooooooom. Someone’s here.”
Her mother came from the kitchen, wiping wet hands on her jeans. When she saw the man, she went pale. “Go to your room,” she told Jude in a scary voice. “Now!”
“Whose child is that?” the man asked, pointing at her. His voice was oddly accented. “Yours? His?”
“No one’s.” Mom didn’t even look in Jude’s direction. “She’s no one’s child.”
That wasn’t right. Jude and Taryn looked just like their dad. Everyone said so. She took a few steps toward the stairs but didn’t want to be alone in her room. Vivi, Jude thought. Vivi will know who the tall man is. Vivi will know what to do.
But Jude couldn’t seem to make herself move any farther.
“I’ve seen many impossible things,” the man said. “I have seen the acorn before the oak. I have seen the spark before the flame. But never have I seen such as this: A dead woman living. A child born from nothing.”
“Faeries make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelties. Twisted words, pranks, omissions, riddles, scandals, not to mention their revenges upon one another for ancient, half-remembered slights.
Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious.”
Mom seemed at a loss for words. Her body was vibrating with tension. Jude wanted to take her hand and squeeze it, but she didn’t dare.
“I doubted Balekin when he told me I’d find you here,” said the man, his voice softening. “The bones of an earthly woman and her unborn child in the burned remains of my estate were convincing. Do you know what it is to return from battle to find your wife dead, your only heir with her? To find your life reduced to ash?”
Mom shook her head, not as if she was answering him, but as though she was trying to shake off the words.
He took a step toward her, and she took a step back. There was something wrong with the tall man’s leg. He moved stiffly, as though it hurt him. The light was different in the entry hall, and Jude could see the odd green tint of his skin and the way his lower teeth seemed too large for his mouth.
She was able to see that his eyes were like Vivi’s.
“I was never going to be happy with you,” Mom told him. “Your world isn’t for people like me.”
The tall man regarded her for a long moment. “You made vows,” he said finally.
She lifted her chin. “And then I renounced them.”
His gaze went to Jude, and his expression hardened. “What is a promise from a mortal wife worth? I suppose I have my answer.”
Mom turned. At her mother’s look, Jude dashed into the living room.
Taryn was still sleeping. The television was still on. Vivienne looked up with half-lidded cat eyes. “Who’s at the door?” she asked. “I heard arguing.”
“A scary man,” Jude told her, out of breath even though she’d barely run at all. Her heart was pounding. “We’re supposed to go upstairs.”
She didn’t care that Mom had told only her to go upstairs. She wasn’t going by herself. With a sigh, Vivi unfolded from the couch and shook Taryn awake. Drowsily, Jude’s twin followed them into the hallway.
As they started toward the carpet-covered steps, Jude saw her father come in from the back garden. He held an axe in his hand—forged to be a near replica of one he’d studied in a museum in Iceland. It wasn’t weird to see Dad with an axe. He and his friends were into old weapons and would spend lots of time talking about “material culture” and sketching ideas for fantastical blades. What was odd was the way he held the weapon, as if he was going to—
“I may be cruel, a monster, and a murderer,
but I do not shirk my responsibilities.”
Her father swung the axe toward the tall man.
He had never raised a hand to discipline Jude or her sisters, even when they got into big trouble. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. He just wouldn’t.
And yet. And yet.
The axe went past the tall man, biting into the wood trim of the door.
Taryn made an odd, high keening noise and slapped her palms over her mouth.
The tall man drew a curved blade from beneath his leather coat. A sword, like from a storybook. Dad was trying to pull the axe free from the doorframe when the man plunged the sword into Dad’s stomach, pushing it upward. There was a sound, like sticks snapping, and an animal cry. Dad fell to the vestibule carpet, the one Mom always yelled about when they tracked mud on it.
The rug that was turning red.
Mom screamed. Jude screamed. Taryn and Vivi screamed. Everyone seemed to be screaming, except the tall man.
“In Faerie, there are no fish sticks, no ketchup, no television.”
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
INVIGORATING, PAGE-TURNER, CAPTIVATING
Ah. I’ve finally gotten around to give The Cruel Prince a go after patiently waiting for the whole series to be published before sinking my teeth into it. And I must say, your girl has been rewarded for her patience because this series is definitely worth the wait and lives up to its hype.
I mean, I wouldn’t say that The Cruel Prince was a totally new and unique idea or that it was without flaws because despite all the good, there are places that Ms. Black could have done better. However all things considered, amongst all the mediocre novels that floods the Young Adult genre these days, I must say that the first installment of The Folk of the Air series, The Cruel Prince, does have the quality to be honed into something more.
The Cruel Prince tells the story of 3 sisters, Vivienne, Taryn, and Jude from Jude’s point of view. Vivienne who was born a faerie, had no trouble blending into the Faerie world. Her two mortal sister however, had a much harder time trying to get used to Faerie world no matter how hard they try.
As far as the storyline goes, I have no complaints. I have read a couple of books that writes about faeries before, and I found that compared to those books, the plot to The Cruel Prince is much simpler with less betrayal, action, and complicated politics. Which, to each their own, but I think I would have preferred there to be more umph to the story as one of the things that I love when reading about books that talks about faeries are their politics and how everyone cunningly navigates through it to reach their goals even without the ability to lie.
For me personally, I had a hard time trying to get through the first half of the book, with Jude constantly trying to fight the world and Taryn being the weepy weak girl that she was constantly begging for Jude to stop. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where these girls are coming from especially with the past that they had. But a lot of it just feels like unnecessary page filler teenage drama, when it could have been so much more, you know?
I like her. I really do.
I like how Ms. Black writes Jude as a consistently headstrong character who is stubborn, prideful yet caring.
“We are getting older and things are changing. We are changing.
And as eager as I am for it, I am also afraid.”
I like how Jude doesn’t just go goo-goo-ga-ga over boys like her twin sister Taryn did and focused more on trying to prove and better herself with her swordsmanship and wanting to be a knight above all.
And most importantly, I love how despite the cards that she was handed and how she had to fight for a lot of things in her life, she doesn’t give up. Despite how Jude knows that she’s going to lose, she still chose to stand her ground and would rather die than to fight for a cause that she doesn’t believe in.
Truly an interesting character altogether.
Honestly, the jury is out on this girl. I don’t really like Taryn, nor do I dislike her. Actually, I can say that I don’t feel all that much for Jude’s twin sister, Taryn.
“I am going to fall in love.”
I am surprised into laughter. “So you’ve just decided? I didn’t think it worked like that. I thought love was supposed to happen when you least expected it, like a sap to the skull.”
“Well, I have decided,” Taryn says.
While Jude seems to be the kind of person who would always put the needs of others before herself, Taryn just comes off as very vindictive and jealous of her twin sister. She plays herself off as this prim and proper girl who is basically boy-crazy and salivating to get married so that she can have a place in Faerie. But then, despite her outwardly nice girl appearance, Taryn seems to be capable of using a whole lot more cruel and dirty tricks than Jude ever could.
THE VINDICTIVE PRINCE CARDAN
I’m not sure if a lot of you have ever read an gay novel called Captive Prince before, but Cardan reminds me somewhat of Laurent in Captive Prince. Although I’d say that Laurent is way smarter and crueler than Cardan could ever be––basing not this first novel at least––there is something similar about these two characters from the way they carry themselves to how easily people fall under their charms.
In The Cruel Prince, Cardan to me, seems green. Meaning that, I feel like this boy has a lot of untapped potential to him that has yet to be discovered. His relationship with Jude, which goes from arch nemesis to now friends(?), progressed a little to fast for my taste.
“See what we can do with a few words? And everything can get so much worse. We can enchant you to run around on all fours, barking like a dog. We can curse you to wither away for want of a song you’ll never hear again or a kind word from my lips. We’re not mortal. We will break you. You’re a fragile little thing; we’d hardly need to try. Give up.”
“Never,” Jude says.
There was a scene in the book where Jude started interrogating him out of nowhere and they ended up kissing. It was understood that Jude seems to do that to prove a point, however, the scene was also accompanied by Jude suddenly feeling all these feelings of desire that was never mentioned before. I mean, the girl literally wanted to burn Cardan alive for a good 80% of the book, and then all of a sudden, they kissed and she catches feelings?
Did I mention that I adore the writing in this novel? It’s not everyday where you find a book that was written as beautiful as a poetry without it being overwhelming to my goldfish brain.
For as long as I remember, I have always yapped about how lengthy, prose-y writing will forever be the bane of my existence. However in The Cruel Prince, Ms. Black managed to find the golden in-between of keeping the story interesting with beautiful proses without going into 3 pages of details of how the sun hit a certain furniture just right which causes the shadows to start dancing and having orgies right then and there.
All in all, a good book. I don’t have much to say about The Cruel Prince just yet because I feel like only the last 15% of the book amounts to anything interesting and worth talking about. So with that said, I’m going to refrain from dishing out any judgments before I read more of the series.
Now, for those of you who are thinking of reading The Cruel Prince, definitely give this a go. However, keep in mind that the storyline to this novel is pretty straightforward, not a lot of surprises or plot twists along the way––although I do hope it improves from here on out––so if you are looking for something more complicated, this book might not be for you. That being said, despite all that, The Cruel Prince is still a fun read. This is the kind of book that you seemingly pick at random, but for some reason couldn’t put down until you get to the end of it.