The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

“There’s always something left to lose.”

Jude was seven years old 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.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war 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.

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Personal Thoughts:

The Cruel Prince is a dark, rich and wicked fantasy story that will surely delight readers.

Open with a brutal murder where the readers were introduced to the main character and narrator, Jude. Jude is a human girl raised in the Faery realm by the fae who killed her parents. Jude live among the faes in the land of Elfhame, together with her two sisters, Taryn – Jude’s twins sister and Vivi a half-fae. Under Madoc’s care, Jude and Taryn are getting the same privileged like any faes. They get to attend schools, parties and have every material things they need or want. But being human makes them an outcast by other faes. Jude wants nothing more than to be accepted by the Folk. She aims to be a Knight with the hope that when she becomes one, the fae will finally accept her and also to be able to protect her sister, Taryn.

“That’s what comes of hungering for something: you forget to check if it’s rotten before you gobble it down.”

Jude is a humanly flawed character which sometimes make her not very likeable. She is impulsive, a bit greedy, ambitious and even brutal at times. But Jude is also strong-willed and loving. She knows what she want, and she will do her best to get it. She will protect her family and those she loves.

In the beginning, it is easy to assume that the title refers to Cardan, who Jude see as someone loves to hate her because she is human. But as the story progress, and the fae court politics were introduced, readers will question who is the titular Cruel Prince is? And with everyone’s motives unknown to Jude, readers will have to guess and make assumptions as they read from Jude’s limited point of view.

And in the topic of motivations, there are some characters motivations that makes my eyebrows rise. First, Valerian, I don’t like the guy from the very start, but still I hope that Holly Black will have deeper explanations on why he love to bully and torture Jude other than because he simply likes to hurt others. Not only it doesn’t make sense since he has friends, but also it seems that it become an excuse for Jude to kill. Next is Cardan, his actions towards Jude is also pretty shallow. It’s make him look like an attention-seeking kind of guy, which is understandable given his family set-up and compare to Jude, but like with Valerian, I wish there’s more deeper explanations.

As for Locke, his play with Jude and Taryn is obvious from the start, which makes me wonder how Jude missed it. Maybe Jude is blinded or something? Anyway, back to Locke, I feel like Holly Black is not finished with this fae yet. It seems that he is still cooking something on his sleeves.

Also, I think that the duel scene between Jude and Taryn doesn’t need to happen. If there’s a need for duel, It should be between Jude and Locke, and not between the two sisters. They are sister for family sake. But considering Jude and Taryn grew up in the fae world and in Madoc’s care which is a military general of the fae’s court. I understand the impulse. Which I hope what it is – just an impulse. I hope they realized that family is still family.

“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks. Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”

With murders, secrets, betrayal, and lies, The Cruel Prince is a wonderfully-dark and thrilling start to this new fae fantasy series, The Folk of the Air. Holly Black is clearly concocting an intricate fae mythology and equally intriguing story to wrap with it. I can’t wait to find out how she will fully developed the story and the characters in the next book, especially with Jude playing the fae-politics with Cardan.