Book Review : The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) By Holly Black
Continuing Jude’s exile to the human world, Jude’s journey continues in book 3 of Folk of the Air series, Queen of Nothing.
Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.
Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.
Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.
And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…
A Sneak Peek Into “Queen of Nothing”
I, Jude Duarte, High Queen of Elfhame in exile, spend most mornings dozing in front of daytime television, watching cooking competitions and cartoons and reruns of a show where people have to complete a gauntlet by stabbing boxes and bottles and cutting through a whole fish. In the afternoons, if he lets me, I train my brother, Oak. Nights, I run errands for the local faeries.
I keep my head down, as I probably should have done in the first place. And if I curse Cardan, then I have to curse myself, too, for being the fool who walked right into the trap he set for me.
As a child, I imagined returning to the mortal world. Taryn and Vivi and I would rehash what it was like there, recalling the scents of fresh-cut grass and gasoline, reminiscing over playing tag through neighborhood backyards and bobbing in the bleachy chlorine of summer pools. I dreamed of iced tea, reconstituted from powder, and orange juice Popsicles. I longed for mundane things: the smell of hot asphalt, the swag of wires between streetlights, the jingles of commercials.
Now, stuck in the mortal world for good, I miss Faerieland with a raw intensity. It’s magic I long for, magic I miss. Maybe I even miss being afraid. I feel as though I am dreaming away my days, restless, never fully awake.
I have given up on being proud. As Bryern reminded me, I am no one special.
I drum my fingers on the painted wood of a picnic table. It’s early autumn, already cool in Maine. Late-afternoon sun dapples the grass outside the apartment complex as I watch Oak play with other children in the strip of woods between here and the highway. They are kids from the building, some younger and some older than his eight years, all dropped off by the same yellow school bus. They play a totally disorganized game of war, chasing one another with sticks. They hit as children do, aiming for the weapon instead of the opponent, screaming with laughter when a stick breaks. I can’t help noticing they are learning all the wrong lessons about swordsmanship.
Still, I watch. And so I notice when Oak uses glamour.
He does it unconsciously, I think. He’s sneaking toward the other kids, but then there’s a stretch with no easy cover. He keeps on toward them, and even though he’s in plain sight, they don’t seem to notice.
Closer and closer, with the kids still not looking his way. And when he jumps at them, stick swinging, they shriek with wholly authentic surprise.
He was invisible. He was using glamour. And I, geased against being deceived by it, didn’t notice until it was done. The other children just think he was clever or lucky. Only I know how careless it was.
I wait until the children head to their apartments. They peel off, one by one, until only my brother remains. I don’t need magic, even with leaves underfoot, to steal up on him. With a swift motion, I wrap my arm around Oak’s neck, pressing it against his throat hard enough to give him a good scare. He bucks back, nearly hitting me in the chin with his horns. Not bad. He attempts to break my hold, but it’s half-hearted. He can tell it’s me, and I don’t frighten him.
I tighten my hold. If I press my arm against his throat long enough, he’ll black out.
He tries to speak, and then he must start to feel the effects of not getting enough air. He forgets all his training and goes wild, lashing out, scratching my arms and kicking against my legs. Making me feel awful. I wanted him to be a little afraid, scared enough to fight back, not terrified.
I let go, and he stumbles away, panting, eyes wet with tears. “What was that for?” he wants to know. He’s glaring at me accusingly.
“To remind you that fighting isn’t a game,” I say, feeling as though I am speaking with Madoc’s voice instead of my own. I don’t want Oak to grow up as I did, angry and afraid. But I want him to survive, and Madoc did teach me how to do that.
How am I supposed to figure out how to give him the right stuff when all I know is my own messed-up childhood? Maybe the parts of it I value are the wrong parts. “What are you going to do against an opponent who wants to actually hurt you?”
“I don’t care,” Oak says. “I don’t care about that stuff. I don’t want to be king. I never want to be king.”
For a moment, I just stare at him. I want to believe he’s lying, but, of course, he can’t lie.
“We don’t always have a choice in our fate,” I say.
“You rule if you care so much!” he says. “I won’t do it. Never.”
I have to grind my teeth together to keep from screaming. “I can’t, as you know, because I’m in exile,” I remind him.
He stamps a hoofed foot. “So am I! And the only reason I’m in the human world is because Dad wants the stupid crown and you want it and everyone wants it. Well, I don’t. It’s cursed.”
“All power is cursed,” I say. “The most terrible among us will do anything to get it, and those who’d wield power best don’t want it thrust upon them. But that doesn’t mean they can avoid their responsibilities forever.”
“You can’t make me be High King,” he says, and wheeling away from me, breaks into a run in the direction of the apartment building.
“Wisdom is for the meek. And it seldom helps them as much as they believe it will.”
I sit down on the cold ground, knowing that I screwed up the conversation completely. Knowing that Madoc trained Taryn and me better than I am training Oak. Knowing that I was arrogant and foolish to think I could control Cardan.
Knowing that in the great game of princes and queens, I have been swept off the board.
*Undelivered letters from Cardan to Jude will be attached below; note that spoilers will be involved in this section*
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
EXHILARATING, EMOTIONAL, THRILLING
Ladies and gentlemen, after a long arduous journey through The Folk of the Air series, we have finally arrived on the end of our voyage in the Faerie world.
When I decided to give this series a try, I barely had any expectation on what The Folk of the Air series might bring whatsoever. Seriously, if we were to be really honest here, I’d say that the only reason this series even caught my eyes was because of it’s gorgeous cover. And they say don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Heck, if this book didn’t have the cover that it does, your girl probably wouldn’t have give it a second glance in the book store––yes yes, I know, I’m vain like that, even with my books––and would have missed out on what otherwise would have been an incredible series.
You know how I’ve been complaining about how the past two books, The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King have been missing that certain umph that your girl has been complaining nonstop while searching high and low for? Well lo-and-be-fucking-hold ladies and gents, I have found the missing puzzle piece in The Queen of Nothing!
Before I read The Queen of Nothing, I was actually quite skeptical of how the series would end. Thus, your girl tippy toed and snooped around on Goodreads to see what people have been saying about this last installment to the Folk of the Air series. To my disappointment, while a lot of readers loved how it ends, a whole lot more of my Goodreads friends hated how The Queen of Nothing turned out to be.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that I went into The Queen of Nothing with a sense of trepidation on how all the previous books have all been for naught and the ending wouldn’t been as satisfying as I would have hoped it to be. However, as I kept reading and the pages continued to fly by, it suddenly dawned on me that The Queen of Nothing might have been the best book out of the trilogy yet.
You know why? Because our main protagonist Jude, the twin who seem to really need no man, the twin who seem to know what she wanted out of Faerie, the ruthless and merciless Jude has finally, finally, finally started feeling things.
Ah, our cunning and beautiful Jude.
I must say, I have been waiting for Jude’s character to grow and change since book 1. While she did grow to be someone who was more mature and understanding, I don’t think it truly shows until this book. In the past two books, Jude has always been someone who’s hunger for power eclipses everything else. Her relationship with her family and sisters were strained because of it, and the girl just have never been someone who’s into boys like her twin sister Taryn does.
I know there are a lot of things I ought to have told her and a lot she ought to have told me. I know we haven’t been kind. I know she’s hurt me, more than she can guess. But for all that, she’s still my sister. My widowed, murderer sister with a baby on the way.
While that’s a refreshing concept to see in a YA novel, sometimes it does seem as if Holly Black is making Jude to be someone who’s too hardened to even have things so trivial such as feelings. Which in turn, makes it hard––at least for me––to truly connect and understand Jude as a character. And when you find a hard time trying to connect with the main protagonist, it makes it difficult for you to want to care about them and the people they associate themselves with.
It’s not until The Queen of Nothing that Jude began to show feelings. Not only towards Cardan, but also towards Faerie and the people of Faerie.
THE DUARTE SISTERS
Almost all of the characters in The Folk of the Air went through some wild changes and growth in the last installment, The Queen of Nothing. And Jude’s sisters are one of them.
“Love is stupid. All we do is break one another’s hearts.”
Jude’s twin sister Taryn, who has been portrayed as someone who was weak-willed, a tad bit selfish, and meek, turns out to be more than what the readers seem to give her credit for. In The Queen of Nothing, while Taryn is still as classy and elegant as she was in the past two books, after being married to Locke, she seemed to have grown a backbone to standup for herself and to do what needed to be done. In the past review, I mentioned that the jury’s still out for Taryn, I guess now we can conclude that despite what Jude and Taryn said and did, in the end, they’re still sisters.
Now about the eldest of the Duarte sisters, Vivi. To me, she has always been the one who’s just done whatever she wanted. Mostly to spite her father, Madoc, but on the other hand I suppose as she grew up in human world longer than both Taryn and Jude did, she felt a sense of connection there that she didn’t feel in the Faerie world. Vivi was constantly portrayed as someone who’s chaotic and a rebel, however, I’m sure there are a lot of sufferings that she hid from her sisters as well. I suppose in the end, despite everything that the Duarte sisters did and said to each other, when one needs the other, they always pull through and were there for each other.
MADOC AND BLOODLUST
An interesting character, this one.
Even though he and Jude are constantly at each other’s throats taunting and mocking each other with their strategical mind for the good part of book 2 and book 3, for some reason, I still can’t find myself disliking him.
Redcaps crave violence and blood and murder—in fact, they get a little twitchy when there’s none to be had for stretches of time. And if they’re traditionalists, they have a cap they dip in the blood of their vanquished enemies, supposedly to grant them some stolen vitality of the slain.
Madoc, being the High King’s general before he broke off and decided to gather his own army to steal the crown to become Hing King himself, was an enemy to be reckoned with. While I applaud Jude to be able to outmaneuver him most of the time, I still can’t get myself to wish for Madoc to die.
I don’t know why, I guess it has something to do with how much of a good sport Madoc was about the whole thing. While Jude had the upper hand, Madoc had decades of experience under his belt. It was thrilling to watch them fight each other in a battle of wills and minds, but yet, I still––deep down inside––believe that despite everything Jude believed about Madoc being a solider first and father second, she’s had it wrong all this time.
HIGH KING CARDAN
Cold, aloof, cruel Cardan. Oh, how far we’ve come from the first time Jude saw him.
“You’re a prince,” she told him firmly when he would shy away from a conflict or fail to make a demand. “Everything is yours. You have only to take it.”
I mean, honestly, your girl has always had a weakness for guys who are cruel and cold at first, until they eventually thawed and revealed that they’re just a softie who was hurt and abused as a child. That they have this whole universe of love that they want to give, but was afraid to give it to the wrong person in fear that their love would be used against them.
That my friends, is Cardan. Well I mean, either that, or Cardan is just a masochist cause he couldn’t have chosen a bigger challenge than Jude Duarte. But hey, his gamble worked out in the end because what do you know, our homegirl Jude has been crushin’ on him since the beginning of Earth. She was just too proud to say it.
When it comes to the young adult genre with hundreds of books that are worth your time, is The Folk of the Air series included in it? Definitely, definitely yes.
Even though the series started off bumpy and yes, very formulaic at times, it really does improve as the series goes on and story unfold. Holly Black is one hell of a writer. I mean, I have never read any of her other books, but based on these 3 books that I gobbled up within a week, I’d say that’s a testament of a good writer who knows how to write books that immediately sucked you in and makes you want to read and know more.
Personally, I find that it takes a little bit longer to warm up to her characters in The Folk of The Air series. Heck. It literally took me until The Queen of Nothing to start rooting for both Jude and Cardan, and to start caring about what happens to her sisters and the people Jude cares about. So if that’s something you as a reader care a lot about, when it comes to Holly Black’s books, maybe give it a longer time than usual for you to warm up to her characters.