The Wicked King, sequel to The Cruel Prince is a book that I have been curious about, but not enough to actively break my hardback ban. So I’ve been waiting for it to come into my local library/me be in the library at the same time as the book. I had an hour or so to kill on Wednesday before going to my knitting club, and decided that a bit of Faerie and backstabbing was just what I needed.
The Book: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2)
Author: Holly Black
Format: Hardback from the Library (go libraries!)
At the end of The Cruel Prince, mortal Jude has crowned dickish Cardan High King of Elfshame, and King of the Faeries through manipulation and trickery. With little brother (and also a prince of Faerie) Oak safely away in the human world with Viv and her pink-haired mortal girlfriend, Jude can concentrate on the not inconsiderable task of running Faerie and keeping Cardan in check. But her twin sister Taryn’s wedding coming up, and her adopted-father still plotting for the throne are probably the least of her problems – there’s a traitor in her court and the people of the Sea are moving against those of the land.
Jude is a thoroughly unlikable character, and she doesn’t hide it. She is manipulative and doesn’t trust or like people very much. She admits power is addictive, and she spends half of the book worrying about how she is going to keep Cardan on the throne, and how to keep her power over him for more than the sworn Year and A Day. But, I like that she is hard and her thoughts are as well. She doesn’t pretend to be hard and cruel, she is hard and cruel. She took all the bad bits of Faerie and turned it against them to run the kingdom despite Cardan doing his best to be an entirely debauched ruler. Where the last book was about plots against the crown and Jude’s place in Faerie, this is about keeping her place and her power and having to battle against a court of Fae that consider her mortality to impede any chance of her being helpful. She is now navigating inter-court intrigues and controlling the Court of Shadows. Jude has basically become Littlefinger and Varys all in one and posing as the Hand of the King (apologies for the Game of Throne’s references, I tumbled into Westeros recently and I’m still looking for the exit).
Cardan is … still boring. Sorry guys, I like him well enough but he is bratty and he is in fairly predictable ways – which I guess might be the point, he is playacting after all. The only time he really surprised (if that is the right word) is when he seems to defer to Jude’s opinion of his own free will. The power imbalance between them is messed up. The thing is, that plot twist at the end? HERE FOR IT. The entire last third of the book passes from being ok to pretty damn good and I am still curious as to the ending of the series. I mean, it’s like a betrayal soup at one point. It’s a veritable game for the Faerie court.
I enjoyed the first book well enough, and this is a good sequel to the political mess in Cruel Prince, and I liked it well enough. I enjoy the fact there is basically nothing pretty or redeemable about Faerie – it’s a dark and dangerous world, with dark and dangerous creatures and so contrary to so many perceptions of a faery world. I really do like how Faerie and the Fae are portrayed, and how Jude and Tarryn have both adapted to fit into this world they live in. Queen of Nothing is the third book in the series, and is due out in November 2019.
*Confession: When I was thinking of how to take the photo from this book, I found myself wishing that I owned several crowns or diadems, some daggers and little gems and herb pouches. Unfortunately, I have not of the above (but I may be getting a fake dagger for a costume later in the year, it’s just a matter of poor timing) so while my imagination produced a great picture, the reality is significantly more boring.