The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1)

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Synopsis: 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 sister, and Faerie itself.

Author: Holly Black

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Warnings: be aware that there is bullying, harassment, abuse, and murder in this book.

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Have you ever had a book that was so hyped up that you said you’d never touch it even with a ten-foot pole because there is no way in hell it could live up to the hype? The Cruel Prince was mine.

I am never making that mistake again.

That being said, I did wait until the last possible moment to read this book because I wanted to make sure I didn’t have too long to wait for the sequel because I knew I’d need it.

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And boy, did I need The Wicked King! (I’ve now read it and WOW was that both a great and terrible decision because how the hell am I suppose to wait for the third book in the Folk of the Air trilogy with that ending??)

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But, I digress. Let’s review The Cruel Prince first!

Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I’ll find myself wishing I could escape the real world I live in, to relinquish all responsibilities that come with adulting (where can I get a refund, 10/10 would not buy again), and escape into the mystical and magical fantasy worlds that captivate so much of my attention. It’s Hogwarts. I’m talking about Hogwarts. Basically, I’d have just love to have studied at Hogwarts. I don’t even care that there was a murder/attempted murder every year that Harry was there. Who wants safe, anyway? My point is, Faerie, the world in The Cruel Prince that Holly Black attempted to entice me with, is fucked up. I mean, I thought our world was messed up and in tatters, but it’s no match for the drama that unfolds in Elfhame. There is some fucked up shit going on in their world. And I L I V E D for it. The magic is pretty damn cool and I’d probably go if I could be a Fae. But as a human? Not a chance.

I honestly thought the plot to this would be basic and predictable. It is basic but definitely not predictable. The execution of the plot, as well as the whole ensemble of characters, truly set this book apart from similar stories in the fantasy, faerie genre. The plot was not at all predictable, although I did try to predict what was going to happen. I failed massively. I was not expecting that.

The blend of politics, of racial and royal variety, allowed this book to tread waters that I haven’t seen a lot of other books of this type go. It allowed for darker tones and didn’t skim over the true extent to which Jude suffered at the hands of the Faeries. This is where the trigger warnings come into play. What happens to Jude is brutal and somewhat difficult to read if you find this content relatable.

Jude was not a character that I warmed up to immediately. I didn’t relate to her that much. Then again, neither of my parents have been murdered by a faerie and I’ve never been kidnapped by that same faerie to go live in a world that is so completely different to my own. But, ya know! She’s selfish and she’s arrogant and she’s rude. But HOT DAMN is she badass! I loved that about her. She’s not there to look pretty and allow the Fae to walk all over her because of her mortality. Being human is not a flaw. And Jude goes out of her way to show them all that they messed with the wrong human. She’s fiercely intelligent. I love her strength and tenacity. It’s admirable.

Cardan… I have so much love for Cardan, who everyone treats as though the sun shines out of his perfect, princely ass. It does not. He is a complete ass. He’s cruel, as the title of the book says. But his development through the book… kudos, Holly Black, kudos. That is character development done right. And that last quarter of the book? Go read it if you haven’t. Also, drunk Cardan is my fave.

I also don’t think Cardan was that bad *cue to horror*. There were other characters that I hated more. Like outright hated.


It was Taryn.

And Locke.

Just. No.

What they did was unforgivable.

All of the characters in The Cruel Prince were so well fleshed out. There wasn’t anyone in the book that I thought lacked development and none that felt one-dimensional at all. Even the supporting characters. Shoutout to the characters in the Court of Shadows.

I have to mention the most talked about part of this entire book – the slow burn, enemies-to-lovers romance between Jude and Prince Cardan. Even if you haven’t read the book, surely you know about the slow burn?? It’s EVERYWHERE. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to pick it up so badly because give me a slow burn romance over insta love any day! And I have to say that this did not disappoint. I LOVED it. I loved the entire dynamic between Jude and Cardan. And, honestly, when everyone says it’s a slow burn, they really do mean slow burn.

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My one complaint about this book? It was too damn short.

I mean, yeah, I did have The Wicked King coming out a couple of weeks after I read it, but that’s not the point. This is one of the best books (and series) I’ve read. I LOVE it. I’m so mad at myself for waiting so long to pick it up and I’m even more mad that I thought the hype wasn’t fully deserved. It was. It really was. Holly Black has an incredible narrative and her voice shines through in The Cruel Prince.

And now comes the long wait for The Queen of Nothing…

Have you read The Cruel Prince? If you haven’t, do you think you will? Let me know in the comment below!

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    1. It’s so nice to see a slow burn romance, especially in fantasy. I’m living for it! I hope we see more drunk Cardan in The Queen of Nothing, I need more of that 😂 Holly really does, I’m definitely going to be checking out more of her books!

  1. Yes, please take me with you to these mystical and magical fantasy worlds that do not have adult responsibilities – it sounds perfect, he he! This sounds like a great story, especially as it is so unpredictable. I like the sound of Jude, fiercely intelligent and badass is a pretty powerful combination. Thanks for the recommendation Kelly, I always love reading your blog and discovering new and awesome books! <3 xx

    Bexa |

    1. It does sound perfect, doesn’t it 😂 it really was so good and the sequel was just as good, if not better. I didn’t see any of it coming! Jude is not like a lot of other protagonists that we see in literature – she’s not at all likable but she is admirable and one of the best characters I’ve read in so long! Aw, I’m glad to have helped you discover new books 😊 thank you!

  2. I’ve heard so much about this book but never actually looked into it or read a review – I’m glad I finally have and such an informative and well written one at that 🙂

    1. I was surprised at how much I loved the political side of things. It gets so much better in The Wicked King – you’re in for a real treat!

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