The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

The Cruel Price came out days after I started my book-buying ban, so I had to be content with reading reviews and wondering for a few months. I went on a bit of a book splurge about a month ago, and The Cruel Prince was on the shortlist of what made it to my bedside table. Of the six books I bought on the 14th April, I have read Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda, Circe, Everything Leads to You, and now The Cruel Prince. I’m on a roll but the books that have been on my bedside table for months now are glaring at me.

…thinking about it, I probably should have spaced out the YA and the general fiction books…

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.

Blurb from Goodreads

I must confess that I am not sure how I feel about this. I mean, on a scale of Red Queen to Six of Crows, it’s probably around a Ruin and Rising. For those who don’t know, I think Red Queen is painfully stereotypical YA, and Six of Crows is absolutely freaking awesome. So, Cruel Prince sits somewhere closer to Red Queen, but still in the middle. It’s ok, I like that Faerie is a place where fun turns dangerous really quickly, and that the fey are cruel.

There isn’t a single healthy relationship in the entire book. Everything is about having power over others, even Jude’s relationship with her twin sister Taryn has an undercurrent of distrust and irritation in each others actions. Vivi just wants out of Faerie and so does her level best to hate the world around her, but her relationship with her mortal girlfriend is based on lies, because she can’t tell them she is fey. Madok is the person who killed Jude, Taryn and Vivi’s parents, but the twins have learnt to love him, and Jude is probably more like Madok than her birth parents because he raised her. Love is to be bartered and exploited and it doesn’t exist in Faerie. There are abusive parents, abusive spouses, bullying that that could turn into death real quick and there is attempted murder, and actual murder. It’s a hot mess of triggers.

And of course, Cardan is the most vicious, the most cruel of the princes (hence the title) and seems out to make Jude’s life a living hell. It’s better than Valerian, who wants to make her life a death. The court of Faerie is a damn grim place to be, and the politics are along the lines of “assume everyone is going to kill you, alliances hold as long as necessary”. I like how Faerie is beautiful but dangerous, but it’s not a likeable place. You wouldn’t want to accidently stumble across Faerie, or find yourself tricked into making a deal.

I’ll give you three guesses who the “romantic” interest is. He despises himself for it – again, no healthy relationship in sight. He seems to have taken the “boys pull girls pigtails to show they like them” BS to a whole new level. It’s entirely predictable in a romance – power play kind of way. There is very little in the way of character development, or world building beyond the descriptions of Faerie. You know, I went onto Tumblr after reading this book, and I disagree with a lot of fangirly stuff I saw there – Cardan is not a romantic hero, the existing relationship they have is toxic, and it would only get more toxic. I really hope this isn’t being held as a romantic standard!

I will say that the book was a bit addictive. Despite all the awful toxic relationships and awfulness, I liked how Jude doesn’t even try and be a good person. She’s just like “screw this, you ain’t seen nothing yet” which is inordinately petty. She knows she is awful and she revels in it. I am curious about how the second book will pan out, based on all the deals and betrayals in the latter chapters of book 1, so I will probably read on.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews along the lines of “I can’t stop thinking about this, it’s so good!” or about how marvellous the world building and characters were and I just… I can’t agree with that. I think this is incredibly problematic, and sometimes dull, sometimes addictive, but it doesn’t live up to the hype that lead me to buy it. It certainly wasn’t mindblowing, or world changing.

I think this might be one of my longer reviews… as you can see I have a lot of emotions about The Cruel Prince that I have kindly summarised as “meh-ugh”. 


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