Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

I can't image the tremendous pressure an author would feel while writing the end to a wildly popular series like this, especially when there is so much riding on it to do well and succeed. There are many series out there whose enjoyment by readers has been tainted irreconcilably by a bad ending, and so I would guess that Holly Black probably had that fear top of mind while working on THE QUEEN OF NOTHING, asking herself over and over, "What will the fans think of this?"

I say that because, even though this final installment was well-written and an easy read, THE QUEEN OF NOTHING felt "safe" in a way that the previous two books did not. The romance is much more focal in this book, there are fewer deaths and machinations, and grievances are resolved in a more peaceable manner than one might have anticipated or even hoped for. It felt, in short, like fan service-- especially the many descriptions of Cardan in all his glory, and the lavish descriptions of outfits that seemed to have been written with the thought of fanart in mind.

THE CRUEL PRINCE catapulted the series off to a wild and deadly start as Jude stoops to all kinds of crazy lengths to seize power in the world she loves but probably shouldn't. THE WICKED KING takes things a step further, upping the stakes with court intrigue and scenes of surprisingly devastating brutality. In THE QUEEN OF NOTHING, Jude returns back to the world of faerie once more, in spite of her exile; and the vehicle of her turn is no one less than Taryn, of all people. Taryn, the despised, whose name totally stands for Twat-Ass Ratchet Young Narc™.

It's really hard to talk about this book without major spoilers, but I'm going to try my best because I have some major thoughts. First, Taryn got off way too lightly. Considering all the shit she pulled in previous books, I felt like her redemption arc was way lame. Even the most problematic YouTube celebrities out there need to cry a little and make an apology video before they're forgiven. Taryn definitely needs to make an apology video where she cries and tells everyone how much she sucks before asking them to #smash that subscribe button an oh, by the way, this video is #sponsored. #ad

Second, Jude seemed way toned down in this one. One of the things I loved about her in the previous two books was how unlikable she could be at times, and how much more I ironically liked her because of it. She was a true antihero, doing terrible things to further her agency, and I absolutely loved the fact that she was such a brainy, brilliant heroine. In this book, her thoughts are mostly focused on romance and she loses that sharp edge that made her such a delight. People are able to trick her six ways to Sunday in this book over things that she would have seen in a heartbeat before. That was very disappointing. I missed my knife-happy Jude Duarte from THE WICKED KING.

Third, that whole bit with the prophecy. And anything with this scene, which, again, so as not to post spoilers, I shall describe only with emoji: 🐍. You know what I'm talking about.

Fourth, the ending was way too easy. Yes, it was cute and it satisfied my fangirl heart-- but it was also too easy. Everything was resolved neatly and tied off with a perfunctory bow, and it was like reading that last installment of Harry Potter all over again and getting to that ending at the train station. Even as a teenager, I remember reading that part and thinking, "Oh my God, this is, like, literally fanfiction. J.K. Rowling tacked on a fanfic ending to her book." That's kind of how I felt here. This ending felt more like what the fans wanted and not what she, the author, had planned.

I did enjoy this book and it wasn't an unsatisfying ending, but it definitely felt like pandering. There were things about this book I really did like, such as the sex scene-- an actual sex scene-- which was tastefully done for the YA audience and surprisingly sensual (SJM, with her horrifically graphic and laughably purple scenes has set the bar low for me). I also liked the lavish descriptions of the world of faerie, the food and costume porn, basically anything having to do with Grima Mog, Vee and her girlfriend, and, surprisingly, Oak and his more developed personality. He's a good kid.

As I said, this wasn't a bad book. It just wasn't great like the first two. And that makes me sad. I'm also sorry to say goodbye to this series, as it was fun to have something like this to look forward to, and no other very recent YA fantasy novel has captured my attention quite like this one did.

P.S. Fuck T.A.R.Y.N.™

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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