Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My first order of action: I'm starting an "I hate Taryn" club. If you want to join, just comment below and you'll receive instant membership status. It is the hate that binds us.

What would happen if you combined Hana Yori Dango with Game of Thrones? This book.

I'm kind of surprised at how much I enjoyed THE CRUEL PRINCE. It was receiving a lot of hype, and normally that turns me off, because so much of the hype surrounding books these days seems so manufactured. I'm really sick of seeing everyone post aesthetic pictures of certain books and say, "OMG! THIS IS SO GREAT! LIFE CHANGING! WOW!" and then I go, "Oh really?" and pick it up, like a sucker, and find out that the book is not great or life-changing but incredibly mediocre or, worse, bad and just basically more of the same.

THE CRUEL PRINCE is that 1book out of 100 that deserves all the hype. Faeries are portrayed as they're supposed to be: not Greek gods with convenient magical powers that spend all their time acting like life is one big fat reality TV show, but actual scary, power-hungry creatures who are terrifying as they are beautiful to behold. Jude and her sisters, Taryn and Vivi, find that out the hard way when one of them bursts into their door in the mortal world and murders both her parents. It turns out that their mother was previously married - to a fae - and he didn't take kindly to cheating.

But leaving behind orphans leaves a sour taste in Madoc (jealous faerie ex-husband)'s mouth so he brings back all three of them to be reared in the world of faerie, where they're treated in his household like minor Gentry and resented by pretty much everyone else. Including the Elite 4 - *cough* - I mean the Faerie "Plastics": Nicasia, Locke, Valerian, and Cardan. Jude, not knowing when to stand down or keep her mouth shut, ends up bearing the brunt of their humiliations and intimidation tactics, and instead of learning a lesson, she ends up feeling nothing but rage and a desire for revenge.

For about 1/3 of this book, it felt like another YA fantasy drama with a mortal girl who ends up biting off more than she can chew with a side-romance that feels tepid. Then about 2/3 in, things start to get really crazy, with court intrigue, espionage, betrayal, murder, poison, and yes, okay, illicit romance. The last 100 pages of this book got even better, and the last fifty had me going "OMG!!!!" I received an electronic copy of this book for review, but rest assured, had I been holding a physical copy, I would have been white-knuckling it in a death grip even the most dedicated wrestler would admire.

I think this book's biggest failing is actually the genre. It's forced to dial down the cruelty, the sexuality, and the violence, so sometimes the tone feels a little off. THE HUNGER GAMES, as much as I loved it, had the same problem. YA is still very puritanical, with good reason, but sometimes when authors try to push the envelope within the confines of the parameters set by the age group they're writing for, certain topics can feel either unexplored or disconcertingly tame. I almost feel like this would have been better written for an adult audience, with older characters.

That small qualm aside, I really enjoyed THE CRUEL PRINCE. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES and VAMPIRE ACADEMY. I loved that Jude started off selfish and kind of petulant, and gradually learned to hone her cruelty and her callousness into a very successful weapon. I like it when heroines are powerful and dangerous and morally grey, and given roles typically given to male characters in the genre. I also loved the dark prince, Cardan. He and Jude have a real "Reylo" dynamic, and I foresee a "Fifty Shades of Fae" sequel somewhere down the line for them. #Yaass

P.S. Still not sure if I mentioned THAT I HATE TARYN A LOT? :D :D

P.P.S. Not sure if I understand all the need for subterfuge in the court. Everyone made a big deal of how faeries can't lie, so why not just line everyone up and say "Are you scheming against me or participating in schemes against me, either directly or indirectly?" and then kill anyone who says "yes" or refuses to answer? Why go through all the rigamarole of involving extra spies? See, I'm a mortal and I'd make a better faerie ruler than half these losers. #ACourtOfSmutAndCommonSense

P.P.S. I made a badge on MS Paint:

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

5 out of 5 stars!


  1. Have you read Black's other faerie-related books? I adore them for just the reasons you mentioned--they are so much darker than other YA faerie books.

    1. I don't think I liked TITHE very much but I read it ten years ago so maybe I'd like it more now. I did read on of her newer books... DOLLBONES, I think? ...and that was quite good.


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