Book Review : The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) By Holly Black
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, in book 2 of The Folk of the Air series––The Wicked King––Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
A Sneak Peek Into “The Wicked King”
Jude lifted the heavy practice sword, moving into the first stance—readiness.
Get used to the weight, Madoc had told her. You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself that strong.
It will hurt. Pain makes you strong.
That was the first lesson he’d taught her after he’d cut down her parents with a sword not unlike the one she held now. Then she’d been seven, a baby. Now she was nine and lived in Faerieland, and everything was changed.
She planted her feet in the grass. Wind ruffled her hair as she moved through the stances. One; the sword before her, canted to one side, protecting her body. Two; the pommel high, as though the blade were a horn coming from her head. Three: down to her hip, then in a deceptively casual droop in front of her. Then four: up again, to her shoulder. Each position could move easily into a strike or a defense. Fighting was chess, anticipating the move of one’s opponent and countering it before one got hit.
But it was chess played with the whole body. Chess that left her bruised and tired and frustrated with the whole world and with herself, too.
Or maybe it was more like riding a bike. When she’d been learning to do that, back in the real world, she’d fallen lots of times. Her knees had been scabby enough that Mom thought she might have scars. But Jude had taken off her training wheels herself and disdained riding carefully on the sidewalk, as Taryn did. Jude wanted to ride in the street, fast, like Vivi, and if she got gravel embedded into her skin for it, well, then she’d let Dad pick it out with tweezers at night.
Sometimes Jude longed for her bike, but there were none in Faerie. Instead, she had giant toads and thin greenish ponies and wild-eyed horses slim as shadows.
And she had weapons.
And her parents’ murderer, now her foster father. The High King’s general, Madoc, who wanted to teach her how to ride too fast and how to fight to the death. No matter how hard she swung at him, it just made him laugh. He liked her anger. Fire, he called it.
She liked it when she was angry, too. Angry was better than scared. Better than remembering she was a mortal among monsters. No one was offering her the option of training wheels anymore.
“There is only now. There is only tomorrow and tonight and now and soon and never.”
On the other side of the field, Madoc was guiding Taryn through a series of stances. Taryn was learning the sword, too, although she had different problems than Jude. Her stances were more perfect, but she hated sparring. She paired the obvious defenses with the obvious attacks, so it was easy to lure her into a series of moves and then score a hit by breaking the pattern. Each time it happened, Taryn got mad, as though Jude were flubbing the steps of a dance rather than winning.
“Come here,” Madoc called to Jude across the silvery expanse of grass.
She walked to him, sword slung over her shoulders. The sun was just setting, but faeries are twilight creatures, and their day was not even half done. The sky was streaked with copper and gold. She inhaled a deep breath of pine needles. For a moment, she felt as though she were just a kid learning a new sport.
“Come spar,” he said when Jude got closer. “Both of you girls against this old redcap.” Taryn leaned against her sword, the tip of it sinking into the ground. She wasn’t supposed to hold it that way—it wasn’t good for the blade—but Madoc didn’t reprimand her.
“Power,” he said. “Power is the ability to get what you want. Power is the ability to be the one making the decisions. And how do we get power?”
Jude stepped beside her twin. It was obvious that Madoc expected a response, but also that he expected the wrong one. “We learn how to fight well?” she said to say something.
When Madoc smiled at her, she could see the points of his bottom cuspids, longer than the rest of his teeth. He tousled her hair, and she felt the sharp edges of his claw-like nails against her scalp, too light to hurt, but a reminder of what he was nonetheless. “We get power by taking it.”
He pointed toward a low hill with a thorn tree growing on it. “Let’s make a game of the next lesson. That’s my hill. Go ahead and take it.”
Taryn dutifully trooped toward it, Jude behind her. Madoc kept pace, his smile all teeth.
“Now what?” Taryn asked, without any particular excitement.
Madoc looked into the distance, as though he was contemplating and discarding various rules. “Now hold it against attack.”
“Wait, what?” Jude asked. “From you?”
“Is this a strategy game or a sparring practice?” Taryn asked, frowning.
Madoc brought one finger under her chin, raising her head until she was looking into his golden cat eyes. “What is sparring but a game of strategy, played at speed?” he told her, with a great seriousness. “Talk with your sister. When the sun reaches the trunk of that tree, I will come for my hill. Knock me down but once and you both win.”
Then he departed for a copse of trees some ways away. Taryn sat down on the grass.
“I don’t want to do this,” she said.
“It’s just a game,” Jude reminded her nervously.
Taryn gave her a long look—the one that they gave each other when one of them was pretending things were normal. “Okay, so what do youthink we should do?”
Jude looked up into the branches of the thorn tree. “What if one of us threw rocks while the other did the sparring?”
“Okay,” Taryn said, pushing herself up and beginning to gather stones into the folds of her skirts. “You don’t think he’ll get mad, do you?”
Jude shook her head, but she understood Taryn’s question. What if he killed them by accident?
You’ve got to choose which hill to die on, Mom used to tell Dad. It had been one of those weird sayings adults expected her to understand, even though they made no sense—like, “one in the hand is worth two in the bush” or “every stick has two ends” or the totally mysterious “a cat may look at a king.” Now, standing on an actual hill with a sword in her hand, she understood it a lot better.
“You don’t believe that I could care about you, even after you betrayed me?” He watches me with his cat eyes. “I’m still your father.”
“You’re my father’s murderer,” I blurt out.
“I can be both,” Madoc says, smiling, showing those teeth.
“Get into position,” Jude said, and Taryn wasted no time in climbing the thorn tree. Jude checked the sunmark, wondering what sort of tricks Madoc might use. The longer he waited, the darker it would get, and while he could see in the dark, Jude and Taryn could not.
But, in the end, he didn’t use any tricks. He came out of the woods and in their direction, howling as though he were leading an army of a hundred. Jude’s knees went weak with terror.
This is just a game, she reminded herself frantically. The closer he got, though, the less her body believed her. Every animal instinct strained to run.
Their strategy seemed silly now in the face of his hugeness and their smallness, in the face of her fear. She thought of her mother bleeding on the ground, recalled the smell of her insides as they leaked out. The memory felt like thunder in her head. She was going to die.
Run, her whole body urged. RUN!
No, her mother had run. Jude planted her feet.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
FAST-PACED, FORMULAIC, TAME
I’m going to say this now, in the beginning of the review, before I did any trash talking on The Wicked King. Despite all the shortcomings that this book has––which is really not a lot, but not little as well––I thoroughly enjoyed it. Time felt like it flew by whenever I power up my Kindle and delve into the world of Jude trying to keep Cardan under control at the same time keeping the crown safe and stable until her brother Oak is old enough to take the crown.
There are hardly anymore books where I could get so easily lost in between the pages, just like I’m in the story and experiencing the story unfold as any other of characters in the book might. To that, I commend Ms. Black. Her ability to whip up a story that continuously drag you deeper and deeper into the story is truly not an easy feat and, in my opinion, something to be proud of.
Now, where do I start… Honestly speaking, The Wicked King is so much better than The Cruel Prince. We are able to see Ms.Black evolve and change as a writer, in which her writing and storytelling ability grow alongside her.
In The Wicked King, we see Jude come in to power, and with all that power being the king’s seneschal and basically having control over Cardan’s each and every movement, it got into her head. I mean, of course, who am I kidding. Give that much power to just about anyone, and you will see them change into someone greedier and would hunger for even more power. And our dear girl Jude, is no different.
“You can take a thing when no one’s looking. But defending it, even with all the advantage on your side, is no easy task. Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”
For the first half of the novel, I sure do think that Jude is getting a tad bit insufferable whipping her power around like that like a lash. I even find myself wishing that something would happen to bring her pretty little power greedy head back down to earth a little, and you know what they say about being careful of what you wish for?
Yeah. Because that’s exactly what happened. She was dragged down from the pedestal so rapidly and so harshly that she went all the way into the water and under the sea. It was there that I found myself warming a little towards Jude, and that, was also the catalyst of all the events that followed right after.
TWIN SISTER TARYN
You know how in the book before, The Cruel Prince, where I mentioned about giving her the benefit of the doubt? Well, in The Wicked King, barely anything changed.
I mean, she got married, just like she said she would in book 1. And, well there was something that she did towards the end of the book that was shocking, but not exactly unexpected. I suppose all in all, I have come to the decision that despite what Taryn did, she truly have no ill will to Jude. Unintentionally, sure. But she would never intentionally do anything to hurt her twin sister, at least that’s what I think.
As a character, she’s very soft-spoken and well-mannered, but altogether very bland and boring.
HIGH KING CARDAN
I wouldn’t say that my opinions on Cardan has changed drastically because of this sudden turn of events in The Wicked King now, where he and Jude work together to protect the crown until Oak is old enough to take over. As it seems to always have been indicated that Cardan and Jude is the end goal, even from the first time they met. Jude has always described him as someone she desires, but loathe at the same time.
Now with Cardan being the High King and the readers being able to see more interactions between the two… I don’t know, honestly. My opinion of him still didn’t change. I know that despite his “cruelties” and his tendencies to just cause harm to anything and anyone that gets in his way, there is still some good underneath all that.
“You think we’re still playing some kind of game,” I say.
“Everything’s a game, Jude. You know that. And now it’s your move.”
So yeah, his change of character, or better yet, Cardan showing us another softer side of himself, is really a no surprise for me. Chalk it to because I’ve read too much of this bad-boy-turn-good novels, or because Ms. Black’s characters are really predictable. I guess we’ll never know.
SHIPPITY SHIPPITY SHIP
Come on now, I know this is literally the only reason why you clicked on this post to begin with: to see what people think about the Cardan/Jude ship.
Well boys and girls, hold on tight because momma’s about to break your hearts.
“If wishes were horses , my mortal father used to say, beggars would ride.”
Their relationship was simply put, meh.
I understand that Ms.Black trying to put the two together to satisfy the angst part of the story, the enemies-turn-lovers trope are, not surprisingly, a very interesting trope that a lot of us fangirl and salivate for. That is, of course, if it was done right. If you could practically lick the tension through the pages and wanted to physically stick your hand inside the book and push the two together until they are so close that they have no choice but to kiss.
With Cardan and Jude though, I don’t feel that way. I mean, I enjoy their banter and I like how they are around each other, but that’s really it. I don’t have this burning desire in me to push them into a kiss.
Altogether, The Wicked King is an entertaining book. I enjoyed it, but it was forgettable. I could go through the story like I go through air because it was so fun to read, but I felt nothing towards the characters. You know what I mean?
Holly Black is a talented writer, there’s no denying that. She writes beautifully, while at the same time still making it easy to consume and follow along. However, I continued to find one thing lacking from her books––granted I have only read two, but that is two more than I ever would had it not been for the hype. She’s not very good at making the readers care for her characters. Sure, her characters are amusing, but where I usually would have been worried when something bad happened to a character, with her characters, I just felt a sense of calm.
It was as if even I know that in Ms. Black’s books, good will always prevail in the end. There is no bad big enough, or strong enough to overpower the good. I don’t exactly understand how her books come off like this, but this is just the vibe her whole story gives off. The good will always prevail in the end. While that is a great message to have, a good book it does not make.
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