The Cruel Prince - Review

6/5 Stars to The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

This book completely blew me away. It was not what I expected at all in the most pleasant way. The book is lush, dark, full of intrigue, and most important – full of surprises.

Our story begins in the human world. Jude, seven years old at the time, is a normal kid who answers the door when the stranger rings the bell. The stranger is unlike anyone she has ever seen before – yet he is familiar. That day – both her parents die and Jude, along with her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister Vivi are spirited away to Elfhame – the land of the fairies. Here, they are raised by their parents’ murder, where they must learn to navigate and blend in in the cruel, unpredictable and dangerous world of the High King.

Miss Black’s Faeries are a far cry from the ones you have read about before. These are not benevolent creatures with whom a mortal can fall in love. These are dangerous, cunning and twisted creatures who will hurt a mortal at any chance they get. Yes, they are beautiful – but beautiful in an unusual way, they are beautiful in a way that a fox is beautiful, with sharp features and sly eyes. I cannot help but imagine those the sharp point of a chin, the high cheekbones and the upturned cat eyes on these fairies. Miss Black, true to the tradition of the word fairies uses it to describe a whole host of creatures among them goblins, imps, pixies, trolls and many, many others. The world which she creates breathes 19th century imagery and reminds me of Christina Rossetti’s The Goblin Market. It is a breath of fresh air in the YA Fantasy Literature dominated by the beautiful creatures and predictable storylines.

Miss Black’s Jude is further proof that the main character does not have to be perfect, and good and striving to be better. Jude is complicated, she definitely has a severe case of the Stockholm Syndrome, she is cruel and she is the product of the world in which she was raised. And yet – there was not once where I was exasperated by her, not once did I think “you are being silly,” and not once did think she should have done something else. Her actions make sense, her behavior makes sense and I could not help but love her. Additionally – I loved to see that sisters do not have to get along all the time. This is even more prevalent in the fact that they are twins. It was fascinating to see the development of two young women, physically identical, growing up to be completely different under the same circumstances. It is as if Black has two storylines for the same person in her novel and I must say the mirror imagery is fascinating to watch. Very cleverly done Miss Black.

And then there is the storyline. At first – I thought it was going to be extremely predictable – a human girl, picked on by the other fairies and the handsome Prince Cardan, will find out that he loves her and she will fall in love with him and they will live happily ever after. I could not be further from the truth. The story kept me on the edge on my seat the entire time and I had no idea what will happen. It had none of the predictable YA storylines and was fascinating to watch unfold until the very last page. It was bloody, it was cruel, it was dark and lush and delicious. And anyone who loves dark fantasy, intrigue, and compelling characters simply must pick it up.