Title: The Cruel Prince
Author : Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Children
Publication Date: 01/02/18
Dates Read: 01/03/18 – 01/08/18
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“’Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,’ Taryn says.
‘Or when they do happen, something bad happens next.
Because otherwise the story would be boring,
and no one would read it.’”
The Cruel Prince is a magical story about Jude, a young girl, who lived in the mortal world with her parents, her twin sister Taryn, and her older sister Vivi, until she was around seven years old (my age estimate there). On a rather unfortunate day, a large, ominous man knocks on the door of their home and starts arguing with her mother and calling her his wife. Upon realization that she had not only taken his heir when she left (Jude’s older sister, Vivi), but she had also married a mortal man and bore two more children with him, the man proceeds to drive a sword swiftly and cruelly through the bodies of Jude’s mother and father. Left with no other option, the man tells the three girls to pack their things and whisks them away to live in his home in Faerie. (I know, this may seem like a spoiler, but I promise it is not– it occurs in the first few pages of the novel)
Living in a world that both mystifies and terrifies her, Jude has to find her own ways to fit in among the children of Faerie. She attends courses with them and social events with them, but ultimately, does not seem to have any true friends outside of her two sisters. One of her schoolmates is Cardan, one of the High King’s sons and therefore a prince of Faerie, has a posse of friends that seem to make it their life goal to torment Jude and make sure she doesn’t forget her lame mortality.
The real drama of the story takes place between the High King’s children. Eldred, the High King of Faerie, has decided that it is time to step down as king (think of it as death disguised as retirement) and select his heir to take the crown. He has six children and there is no “first born” birthright for the fae–Eldred has his choice of the heir. Only, they don’t seem content with allowing him to make this decision without interjecting their own influences and schemes.
In the strangest twists and turns of events, Jude gets swept up into this battle for the crown in the worst sort of way. She has to use her wits to read-between-lines, make character judgement, and ultimately, make irrevocable decisions. A mortal girl in the midst of a fae kingdom who is making her own imprints on the wet ink of the Faerie history books.
“Because you’re like a story that hasn’t happened yet.
Because I want to see what you will do.
I want to be part of the unfolding of the tale.”
When I first started reading this book, I swept into that familiar and magical child-like feeling that I always get when I step into the world of J. K. Rowling. It is amazing to me how an author can use such simple, yet beautiful words, to evoke such a magical emotion from readers. Holly Black’s words are not superfluous and overly-flowery. She has a true talent for taking simple words and building them into an empire of beautiful, lyrical, poignant language development. She doesn’t elicit a reaction with her writing, she evokes feeling. And it. is. beautiful.
The first thing I loved about this novel was Jude. She was this fantastic combination of innocence, wit, strength, and audacity. She very quickly morphed into Arya Stark in my mind, which was an exciting realization, because she is one of my favorite literary characters. All of my fellow A Game of Thrones fans know the sassy, self-assured, assassin that is Arya. Jude is a girl who refused to let others walk all over her, wasn’t afraid to play their silly games, and had the perfect balance of raw grit and compassion.
“He’s wrong about me. I am going to make my mayfly life count for something…
…If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
Speaking of A Game of Thrones, the battling of siblings for the crown (while in GOT it wasn’t always siblings, but rulers of different kingdoms) very much reminded me of the ‘great game’ in a fae form. There was treason, poisonings, betrayal, lust, love, hatred, violence, death, and conniving schemes to take the crown. I cannot find the quote that I am looking for in my text (I will add it in here once I can locate it), but at one point in the novel they even coin it as a ‘great game’.
Be warned. Once you get to the last 20% of this novel, prepare to have it glued to your hand. Do not make plans for that last portion of the book. Don’t go anywhere, don’t eat, don’t blink–just keep your eyes on the page and keep on turnin’ those pages! It gets intense! As with any series, the book leaves you with a clifhanger.. but, in my opinion, it wasn’t an annoying “ahh, comme on” kind of clifhanger. It left me pondering for a moment and then smiling to myself as I anticipate the next installment. The Cruel Prince has set the stage for an awesome story that I can just feel is coming with the second and third novels and I cannot wait to get my hands on them.
The beauty of this book is also a very notable characteristic. It has a beautiful map in the front of the book, the book jacket has metallic gold finishing on the lettering, crown, and beetle, the ‘naked’ book cover has a metallic gold High Fae sigil, the chapter headers have cutesy fae drawings, and my favorite little touch–these sweet little acorn drawings at the top of each page. I know, I know.. It’s the little things that get me!
“‘I thought I was supposed to be good and follow the rules’, I say.
‘But I am done with being weak. I am done with being good.
I think I am going to be something else.'”
***I had the awesome opportunity to drive to Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA (about two hours from our home in Upstate South Carolina) to listen to Holly Black and Susan Dennard speak about their new novels, their lives, and their writing. I had such a great time at the event. They were both so friendly and inspiring and I am so thankful for the chance I had to meet them!