The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

January 22, 2018



TITLE: The Cruel Prince
AUTHOR: Holly Black
RELEASED: January 2nd, 2018; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
GENRE: Fantasy
SYNOPSIS: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven years old 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.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.


It had been years since I’d picked up a Holly Black book, but I loved her writing as a kid, so I was a little bit apprehensive about re-entering her little fae world. Believe me when I say, though, that this book was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. Her writing is impeccable, the lore is woven seamlessly through the tale, the characters are lovable and disastrously grey (which is my favorite, forever), and I just wanted more.

“I promise you this” – I throw his own words back at him – “this is the least of what I can do.”

→ Jude ←
I’m going to get this out of the way early: if you asked me what my favorite thing about this book was, I would probably take three years to decide between Holly’s writing voice itself… or this fantastically grey, authentic, human protagonist. She is angry, terrified, clever, and determined. I’ve heard many people say they thought she was annoying, and while I totally respect everyone’s opinions, I can’t see it – if anything, she just felt tremendously real to me.

Even if, by some miracle, I could be better than them, I will never be one of them.

She has undergone incredible traumas, and continues to live through daily abuse – be it verbal or physical – yet, she manages to shove down her pain and fears for the most part. The fact that she was willing to admit to herself that she was secretly terrified, every moment of every day, made her a three-dimensional character that I could relate to. Despite her fears, she does everything she can to even the playing fields, which I found rather admirable.

And then… that ending? I mean, I won’t spoil, but damn. Jude is more than willing to vilify herself to do what she thinks is best for the people she loves and hopes to protect, and it just made me love her even more than I already did.

I am coming unraveled. I am coming undone.

→ Prince Cardan ←
For all that I loved Jude’s moral greyness, Cardan’s left me feeling conflicted a lot of the time. I feel like I have a little bit of an unpopular opinion in that I wasn’t left swooning for the prince; unfortunately, a lot of his behaviors were borderline unforgivable for me.

That said, I do understand that Cardan’s life has been far from easy, and a lot of his behaviors can be somewhat explained (though not justified) by his circumstances. And, I won’t lie, the shift in his attitude towards the end of the book is adorable and far more lovable than his entire existence in the first half of the book, so I still have high hopes that he’ll win me over in the sequel!

Despite myself, despite what he’d done and what he was, I came to love him. I do love him. It’s just not a comfortable kind of love.

→ family ←
Reason #347 why Holly is such a fantastic author: she can make your feelings for a character shift so quickly in one direction or the other, with little to no warning, and Jude’s family is evidence of this from start to finish.

Madoc – Jude’s “father figure”, who took away her parents only to take her in and raise her. He’s brutal, yet doting, and Jude’s feelings for him were a really interesting and realistic view of Stockholm syndrome, in which she constantly was reminded of the terrible things he had done for her, yet she couldn’t seem to stop herself from loving him and wanting to please him. The best part of this is that his character arc is written so flawlessly, I fell for it, too.

Taryn — her twin sister, who ranges from “meh” to downright infuriating and hate-worthy, depending on which scene you’re reading. (Mostly the latter.)

Vivienne — she’s bisexual, rebellious, fun, caring, snarky, and one of my favorite characters in this book by far. I loved each chance that we got to spend time with her, and if there was ever a novella about her life with her cute little mortal girlfriend, I’d be so here for it.

Oriana — the other half of Jude’s makeshift parenting duo, who strikes out as aloof and cold, but has a surprisingly love development process throughout the story that made me genuinely hope we see more of her in the future, as I think she could be a valuable ally for Jude in the coming trials.

Oak — Oriana’s son, who is tiny, adorable, and wild. He’s the perfect portrayal of Fair Folk in that, despite how lovely and charming he can be, he has a vicious and mischievous streak in his bones that few fae are wholly exempt from.

“Plenty of mortals are better at plenty of stuff than the Folk. Why do you think we steal them away?”

→ fair folk ←
One of the many things I enjoyed about this story is how many side characters there were, and how fleshed out most of them felt! My favorite side character was easily one of Jude’s fellow spies, Ghost, who takes it upon himself to spend immense amounts of time training her in how to sneak, steal, and kill. It’s not just that he mentors her, though – it’s that he respects her, and treats her as his equal throughout all of their interactions. So help me, if he does not get MAJOR screen time in the following books, I WILL RIOT.

Among other noteworthy characters were Locke, who is a complete raging asshole that I will never forgive in a million years ever, and the rest of Cardan’s posse, who were also, well… complete raging assholes that I will never forgive in a million years ever.

Faerie might be beautiful, but its beauty is like a golden stag’s carcass, crawling with maggots beneath his hide, ready to burst.

→ final thoughts ←
All in all, while there were some aspects to the story that I didn’t love, I thought this was such a phenomenal story with a delightfully bizarre and varied cast of characters. I felt like I couldn’t get enough of the world that Holly Black wrote, and the idea of having to wait an entire year to see what happens next physically pains me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories of fair folk, political intrigue, backstabbing, love, family, and conniving schemes.

Content warning: Let me emphasize that, when you see TWs for abuse, people are not joking – as someone who has been bullied and abused, parts of this book were actually incredibly difficult for me to swallow. If you are triggered by scenes of abuse and harassment, please practice self-care before, during, and after this read.


More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

Leave a comment
    1. I’m so glad you loved it!!
      This was such a good book and that last chapter just blew my mind 😀
      I need the next book noooowww i don’t want to have to wait ages to find out what happens to Jude 🙁

    1. I read this book a few weeks ago, and while I thought the pacing of the first half of the book was off, I also thought it was a good read.
      Great review!

    1. OHMYGOODNESS! so glad you loved it despite the things you didn’t like, Cardan’s first act being one of the reasons LOL! I don’t think I ever found him swoon worthy but a specific scene with his brother was triggering & also the turning point for how I felt about his character. I FRIGGIN LOVE THE ISHHHH OUTTA JUDE! lmao! I couldn’t agree more, the fact that she is three-dimensional made me feel her humanity all the more. So many amazing supporting characters that I’m also left physically ill at the thought of having to wait another year for the sequel *sobbbbs* 😉
      Great review & quotes Destiny! <3 <3 <3

    1. I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to jump into this. I haven’t read the synopsis because I’m not a fan of them prior to reading books, but the stuff I did read said this was a fairytale retelling. Of which, I am not a fan. After reading this review, I’m actually ready to try this one out! The cover is gorgeous, so I’m excited, just hesitant.
      By the way, your reviews are always so fabulously gorgeous. Just putting that out there! 😀

    1. The day one of the two copies I ordered arrives, I’m simply diving in again. No regrets. I know I said in my review that I couldn’t really connect with Jude a lot but I also said that over time I fell more and more in love with this book so.. I NEED THE REREAD. If only to make myself face the fact that my disconnection with Jude was totally on me when I read it and it’ll be different when I read it now. There, I said it.

    1. Like Kathy, I really didn’t connect much with Jude especially in the beginning. I was having such a hard time connecting to the character that, even though I really liked the world, I wasn’t really motivated to keep reading. I can’t remember what changed, I think it might have been just after the tournament, but suddenly I got really into the book and couldn’t put it down!
      I LOOOOVVVEEEEEEEE VIVI!!! I really wish we had got to see more of her and less of Taryn >.> I also have such complicated feels around Cardan and Locke!

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