The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is a ‘Dramatic and thrilling fantasy’ with ‘enthralling storytelling to create a fully realised and seductive world, brimful of magic and romance.’
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal. As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong.
But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan . . .
As with all my reviews, this review will remain entirely spoiler free.
The Characters and World Building
I absolutely loved how Holly developed the characters in this book. I feel like the development of characters in fiction is such a difficult skill to master and yet Holly makes it look effortless. Almost every single character in this book is fleshed out to the perfect degree for their role in the story. The only one I feel like I kind of wish I knew more about was Vivi. Shes the one character I felt was just there, floating around between scenes not really playing a huge part in the plot but at the same time she’s still relevant.
Jude is such a fascinating character to read. She’s not your typical main protagonist. Shes troubled, fighting her reality while also fighting with herself. I feel like by the end of The Cruel Prince she comes to this self realisation that the whole time the anger she has been projecting towards others is really just deflecting from her own anger.
I found Cardan really interesting too. In the beginning I despise him and how he behaves towards Jude. But as the book progresses and things unfold, you see the reality behind everything that happened at the beginning. You really grow to understand him better.
As for the world building, oh my! This is perhaps my favourite aspect of this book. The physical copy contains beautiful illustrations that, coupled with the writing, really immerse your mind into the world. Especially for someone like me who is a visual learner and very creatively inclined. The map is stunning and each chapter is embellished with pretty floral decoration. Scenes are ended and begun with little sword icons too! This is my first experience reading a fantasy novel with any kind of illustrated imagery throughout and I wish it was done more often.
The Relationships between Characters
I really want to talk about the relationship between these Jude and Cardan. Mainly because I had seen some negative reviews for this book surrounding it. In particular saying they don’t like that it promotes abusive relationships. While I can see why people would perceive their relationship as an abusive one, I wholeheartedly disagree that it is one.
Yes, in the beginning its based entirely on hatred for one another. Cardan is essentially bullying Jude and she’s retaliating. However, they aren’t in any kind of ‘relationship’ yet? They are two people that despise each other. The book doesn’t promote this as being a positive thing in any way either. In fact I think it’s good that we have some representation for relationships that don’t always come about from picnics in the park under a rainbow over tea and biscuits. That isn’t real.
To start with, the bullying comes across very one sided but as the book goes on it becomes very clear that Jude and Cardan are both as bad as each other in many respects. Its unconventional, it’s different, and it’s honest about the dynamics of human interaction.
The Story Progression and Plot
Now, there’s not much else I can say about the story without spoiling the entire book. I will say though that there are some utterly jaw dropping twists and turns. Like most YA Fantasy books the really juicy parts are towards the end. They don’t have the same impact without the development prior. The plot twists are so unpredictable, I failed to see a single one of them coming. Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster like no other in Holly Black’s, The Cruel Prince.
Have you read The Cruel Prince? What are your thoughts about Jude & Cardan? Comment down below!