The Cruel Prince

(The Folk of the Air #1)

There are books I give 5 stars to because they are works of literary depth and richness, or represent a unique viewpoint, or are the result of mountains of research. And then there are books that just compel me to care for the characters from the first chapter and despite the cliches, despite some inkling of the main conflict, I love.

Holly Black may not be the most literary or unique writer out there, but girl, she can write the heck out of YA faerie characters.

If you’ve read Tithe or The Good Neighbor, you’ll thrill at characters both mentioned and present here, and you’ll also know what you’re getting when you start this series…there are no surprises (except for cunning strategies by main character Jude to survive in the fey world) here. You’ve got a human girl who grew up in a complicated fondness/hate relationship with the noble redcap Madoc who murdered her folks. You’ve got a court of beautiful and sadistic fey. You’ve got multiple love interestes. You can fill in the rest.

But why fill it in? Why not jump in with Jude, who unlike her twin sister Taryn who is content to be ladylike and make her fortune by marrying a fey, works hard to learn Madoc’s fighting and strategizing lessons so she can be a player.

And since High King Eldred is stepping down, Jude is part of a powerplay in the high court of the fey, especially since her tormentor at school is the youngest of the high king’s princely sons.

There is a lot of plotting for Jude. She has to put up with a lot of torment from the prince, and Black really ratchets up the tension between Jude being hotheaded and mouthing off with terrible consequences and having to take the torment to protect her sister and herself.

About two thirds of the way through the book, everything changes due to the high king stepping down– all of a sudden Jude actually has some power and agency and the tables turn between her and the prince. There’s also one love interest from the start, and another one who slowly becomes apparent.

If Academy fantasy or tricking fey who can not lie and plotting power games at feasts is your catnip, you’ll like this. Things stay pretty much YA except for hints at some of the darker things that can happen to humans in the power of the fey….but the worst never happens. A girl who tries to kill herself comes back as a killer mermaid, when Jude is enchanted into promiscuous behavior the worst never happens…so it stays firmly in YA territory for me.

And it was fun to hang out with Roiben, Kaye, etc. for a little while 🙂