The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Cruel Prince is a very challenging book for me to rate. I struggle with books that don’t have relatable characters in them because I end up lacking the ability to form a strong emotional connection to a book. That being said, I really enjoyed the story itself even if I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. They are not good, they are not kind, they are the embodiment of the cruelty, trickery, violence, and debauchery of Faerie.
This book is incredibly bloody, violent and cruel. There are an uncountable number of murders and bloodshed in this book. It is definitely not for the faint of heart nor those who enjoy light, fluffy books. It is tough and gritty, pushing the darkness of the realm into you and not letting go. That aspect of the world building felt real (and horrifying), although I wish I had gotten more actual world building. I am left with a number of questions and less information than I feel I should have about Elfhame.
Jude was brought to the land of Faerie as a child and it shaped her as a person, just like it affected her twin sister Taryn and her half-sister, Vivienne. Vivienne rebelled against her father and what was expected of her, her only desire to return to the human world. Taryn chose to blend in as best she could and find a marriage to protect her. Jude chose power and violence, her desire to be a part of the Court driving her every move. It is for that reason that I don’t find her likable, as I don’t have that thirst for power and pain. It makes it really tough to feel for her or wish for her success. Taryn, on the other hand, is too meek and easily cowed to be relatable either.
The character that I felt had the most development was Prince Cardan. The others felt relatively the same throughout the book. Although we discovered bits and pieces of them, overall they didn’t change or adapt. Prince Cardan was very flat at the beginning, the typical cruel bully but was given some depth over the course of the novel (although that didn’t stop him from being his true self.)
The story was very engaging and twisty. I was intrigued by the plotline and didn’t see some of the reveals coming, although others were quite obvious. Overall, despite the slow start, I felt that the pacing was good and didn’t stumble. The writing itself is very rich and descriptive. The author makes sure you know exactly what the ill-fated fruit tastes like on your tongue and the horror of having your limbs obey someone other than you.
I was interested enough to want to read the next book in the series and can’t wait to see what development is brought to these characters. I would still recommend the book, although it is not my favourite Fae-related book.
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