“The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black is the first book in her new series. The main character, Jude is a 17-year-old mortal who has raised in the world of the fairies after her parents were murdered. Desperate for a place for herself in the kingdom, and to feel like she belongs, she will do whatever it takes. However, when the spot for the throne is threatened, she has to use her skills and step up to the plate to do what is best for the entire kingdom.
One thing that I really appreciated about this novel was the world building of Elfhame, the fairy kingdom. I really felt immersed in this magical world and invested in the politics. My only criticism was that because it was juxtaposed with a modern outside world, it was confusing at times to understand the time period we are set in.
Essentially, the outside world takes place in the present day with technology, amenities, etc. but there’s a separate world where the fairies live. However, it seems that Elfhame was more like a medieval time period.
The characters were what I loved the most about this story. Too often in young adult literature, we are presented with female characters being portrayed as weak, naive and unable to stand up for themselves.
In this book, Jude is a feisty, strong protagonist who won’t put up with the crap thrown at her by the fairy classmates who humiliate and bully her.
One of the moments that stood out to me the most was when she was being attacked. She said, “Despite his fingers against my windpipe, despite the way my vision has begun to go dark around the edges, I make sure of my strike before I drive my knife into his chest. Into his heart”.
Another character I loved was Carden, the prince of Elfhame and the villain of the story. Hating him was so satisfying; which is what truly makes a really well-executed villain.
Throughout the book, he is always doing something to Jude that just makes you despise him. He reminds me of Joffrey from “Game of Thrones”. If anyone is familiar with the TV show, you’ll understand.
Overall, despite my minor issue with the time setting, I really enjoyed this story. It is an immersive, action-packed novel with the right balance of character building and a great start to what I hope will be an epic adventure series. If you’re a fan of TV shows like Game of Thrones and enjoy a well-executed fantasy story, I definitely recommend giving this a try. I am already anticipating the sequel which is set to come out next January.