Faerie might be beautiful, but its beauty is like a golden stag’s carcass, crawling with maggots beneath his hide, ready to burst.
Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince begins with an appropriately cruel, bloody, enticing murder. Jude, Taryn, and Vivienne watch as a mysterious man, revealed to be Vivienne’s biological father, kills their parents, and whisks them off to Faerie to raise them as his children.
What I immediately loved about this book is that it shows the world of Faerie, not as the romanticized ideal that we dream of running away to, but as it really is; terrifying, dangerous, deadly, and irresistible.
Jude and Taryn are fully human, which means they are the lowest of the low. They are bullied mercilessly, particularly by the novel’s titular character, Cardan, the cruel prince. All three sisters have their own plans for survival; for Vivienne, it’s running back to the human world, for Taryn, it’s adapting and blending in, but for Jude, the novel’s badass heroine, it’s becoming stronger, better, and more powerful than any faerie. Her stubborn determination, her defiance and ambition and refusal to bow down to her bullies is incredibly compelling.
Every character, while richly developed and fascinating in their own way, is pretty much unlikable. Even Jude, who I loved.
As with so many dark, brooding, male characters, there was the hint that maybe the awful, arrogant, yet still noticeably handsome bully was actually tragically misunderstood, but I really do hope that the next book doesn’t try and make a hero out of him. No matter the tragedy in his past, he does some pretty nasty stuff.
And of course, Jude always gets the upper hand.
Political intrigue, spies, bloodshed, betrayal, sisterly friendships, badass women, magic, monsters, secrets… I could go on and on.
This book has everything.
What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.