Book Review x2: The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black


TheCruelPrinceCoverOfficial Synopsis for The Cruel Prince from Goodreads: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven 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.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal 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.

Genre for both books: Young Adult Fantasy
My copies came from: I borrowed my copies from my local library.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review of The Cruel Prince: I devoured this read! I was sucked into The Cruel Prince from the first page and was immediately drawn into Jude’s world. The book opens on young Jude witnessing the murder of her parents at the hand of Madoc. What is interesting in this read, is that Madoc turned out to be my favorite character, and the first time we meet him in the book he is killing Jude’s parents. Madoc then takes his daughter Vivienne, and Vivi’s sisters Jude and Taryn away to the Faerie world and raises them. The girls are all old enough to know and remember what happened to their parents, and I found Madoc’s relationship with the girls fascinating. They love him and hate him, and there are many morally gray characters here.

What they don’t realize is this: Yes, they frighten me, but I have always been scared, since the day I got here. I was raised by the man who murdered my parents, reared in a land of monsters. I live with that fear, let it settle into my bones, and ignore it. If I didn’t pretend not to be scared, I would hide under my owl-down coverlets in Madoc’s estate forever. I would lie there and scream until there was nothing left of me. I refuse to do that. I will not do that.

Jude is our main character, and I found her interesting. She’s a fighter, and was raised by Madoc and is like a female version of Madoc. You can tell she longs for his acceptance, but she also wants to avenge her parents, and I find that plotline quite fascinating. Jude and her twin sister Taryn, are both entirely human, while Vivi is half human and half fae. It’s hard for humans to live in the world of fae, as the fae look down on humans and frequently try to trick them and are generally just really nasty towards humans. I don’t think there is one character in this book that is entirely good, and usually that bothers me in a book, but the characters were written with enough humanity and recognition of their awfulness to each other, that I found them compelling and I cared what happened to them.

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

Besides Madoc, Jude, and her sisters, another main character is Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. He is downright despicable, and delights in tormenting Jude. They most definitely have a love-hate relationship, very strong on the hate, and I like how the author showed how truly awful Cardan can be. He isn’t mean to Jude for one page and then turns nice. Oh no. He’s mean for the entire book, and only rarely shows glimpses of kindness. And even then, I wasn’t sure if he was actually kind, or if it was all a scheme. There are schemes upon schemes and twists upon twists in this read. Some will make you grit your teeth in anger, or gasp in surprise, and some you’ll see coming. Mostly I was surprised in The Cruel Prince, and that is why I couldn’t put this book down and ended up reading it in just one day. The book just flew by and I loved it and had to get book two from the library right away!

Bottom Line for The Cruel Prince: Fast paced and with compelling characters, this totally lived up to all of the hype!

TheWickedKingCoverOfficial Synopsis for The Wicked King from Goodreads: You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, 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.

Review: Why do I do this to myself?? I’ve become increasingly frustrated with series, specifically young adult fantasy, and here I go again reading another popular series that specializes in cliffhanger endings. Aggh. And book three isn’t due until next year! Remind me again why I started this series when all the books haven’t been released yet? Oh yeah, massive hype, and I felt like reading a YA fantasy, and sadly I was not impressed with The Wicked King.

Our favorite characters are back, but I felt like the characters here were just going through the motions of the plot, and everything felt rushed and quick. It needed more conversation and quiet moments between the characters for me. There was no breathing room for either the characters or the reader, so something would happen and there was no space for any kind of an emotional reaction. The Wicked King felt like it was written hastily, as if the author was told to “get book two out quickly” and there were multiple times where I had to read and re-read scenes and paragraphs to follow the plot, as there were so many convenient happenings and items appearing out of thin air that this lost all believability for me. I didn’t get this sense from book one, The Cruel Prince, and I’m guessing that is because the author had more time to fine tune that book and it went through a more thorough editing process. This is total speculation on my part, but this is the sense I got while reading The Wicked King.

So, there were many parts of The Wicked King that were disappointing to me. I still love the world and the characters, but I also think that The Wicked King needed more Madoc. I find Jude and Madoc’s relationship much more interesting than Jude and Cardan’s, and the focus here was more on the romantic relationship of Jude and Cardan.

He looks up at me with his night-colored eyes, beautiful and terrible all at once. “For a moment,” he says, “I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.”

I make a face at him. “And what made you decide it wasn’t?”

He grins up at me. “They missed.”

I have said that he has the power to deliver a compliment and make it hurt. So, too, can he say something that ought to be insulting and deliver it in such a way that it feels like being truly seen.

Our eyes meet, and something dangerous sparks.

He hates you, I remind myself.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

I also didn’t find the events of The Wicked King all that surprising. Things were foreshadowed from a mile away, and I was missing that sense of surprise and unpredictability that I got from book one.

Even though I didn’t think The Wicked King was as good as The Cruel Prince, I will still absolutely read book three, and can’t wait for it to be released next year! These characters are too compelling, even with all of their scheming and awfulness, and the world is too imaginative for me to not be interested in finding out what happens next. I’m hopeful that book three lives up to my expectations, as book two definitely did not. Bummer.

Bottom Line for The Wicked King: Not as good as The Cruel Prince. Too rushed and too predictable. 



LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Amazon: The Cruel Prince   |   The Wicked King
Goodreads:   The Cruel Prince   |   The Wicked King
Author Website

Have you read these books? Which character is your favorite? Have you been frustrated with YA Fantasy and cliffhanger endings?


10 thoughts on “Book Review x2: The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black

    1. It’s such a fascinating relationship! I’m really looking forward to book three and hope Holly Black can really focus on their relationship! It’s full of so much conflict and drama.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The description of the children raised by the man who murdered their father reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. Doesn’t the hero impregnate his fiance and then is thrown in the dungeon? And his rival marries the woman and raises the child as his own? Anyway, sorry the second book was such a drag. All young adult fantasy is starting to sound the same to me, but this series in particular has been very popular in my feeds. Do you think you’ll read the third book? It sounds to me like you should move on. Have you read The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown? That’s a stand-alone fantasy novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right about Count of Monte Cristo ? I haven’t read the book yet but that sounds vaguely familiar from the movie. The relationship is also very very similar to that of Thanos and Gamora (from the Marvel movies)!
      YA fantasy is really losing its appeal for me sadly. Which is such a shame, but I agree they all sound the same! And the covers all tend to look alike too. I picked this one up because it was oh so popular and I felt like reading a YA fantasy. I actually recently read another YA fantasy called Romanov, which is a fantastical take on the murder of the Romanov family, and that one was absolutely fabulous. It was definitely YA (not adult fiction masquerading as YA) so there’s good YA fantasy out there, it just takes a bit of finding and weeding out of the same old, same old.
      And I did really enjoy book one, so I think I will read book three when it comes out as I am interested in knowing what will happen to the characters! Hoping this is just a matter of middle book slump.
      I haven’t read The Unlikely Ones – sounds like an interesting read! I’ll have to add that title to my “library book sale” searches 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m the same way, I always tell myself that I won’t start another series that isn’t fully released and then I get sucked into the hype anyway! I’m sorry you didn’t like The Wicked King more. I didn’t think it was predictable, I didn’t see the twist ending coming at all (and I was expecting a twist!) but I really did hate the cliffhanger!! I hope you like the 3rd book better if you read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always get sucked in to reading another series 🙂 I think I need a self-imposed “no new series ban” until I at least finish a few! I really hope book three is more along the lines of book one! I think I’ll definitely read book three as I want to know what happens to Jude 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. And I definitely think it lived up to the hype too. Ahh I know the cliffhanger ending from wicked king is killing me too- I should’ve seen it coming because it happens a lot with the second book in a series. I do get that it was rushed and predictable- I think I enjoyed it for that, cos it’d been a while since I’d read a quick read. But anyway, great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I was so surprised that The Cruel Prince lived up to all of the hype. So many times hyped YA fantasy just falls really flat for me, but I did really enjoy The Cruel Prince! And since I enjoyed that one so much I have high hopes for the third book. I’m anxious to see how Holly Black will conclude Jude’s story!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s