YA Weekend Audio: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of The Folk of the Air
Publisher: Hachette Audio (January 2, 2018)
Length: 12 hrs and 36 mins
Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
This was my first Holly Black book and I think I’m in love. And to think, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it when I initially heard it was going to be about faeries, figuring I’m going to get a slightly different version of something I’ve seen a thousand times before. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! If you find yourself sick and tired of the boring, formulaic YA novels that are flooding today’s market, then The Cruel Prince may be the answer to your woes.
This is a story about Jude, who was only seven years old when she witnessed her parents slaughtered before her eyes. Their killer, a Fae general named Madoc, next proceeded to drag her and her sisters back to his realm, where the girls were raised as his own daughters. Ten years later, all Jude wants is to be accepted at the Fae high court, but instead, she and her twin sister Taryn are treated as outsiders and bullied mercilessly because of their mortal blood.
Cruelest among their tormentors is Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. His older brother, however, is a lot more politic and judicious, recognizing Jude’s ambitions as an opportunity for an alliance. Thinking she’ll earn a place in his court once he becomes king, Jude agrees to work for him, only to inadvertently place herself in the crosshairs of a bitter battle for the throne.
No joke, The Cruel Prince may well be one of the best YA novels about faeries I’ve read in ages, simply because it does not unfold in an expected manner. The story actually took a long time to build with the crux of the conflict not revealing itself until almost halfway through the book, but when it did come, it hit me like a bombshell and from that moment on I was hopelessly and helplessly hooked.
And while I may be new to the author’s writing, already I’ve read enough to know I love her style. Holly Black left me utterly spellbound with her lusciously rich and dark prose, bringing the dangerous, seductive world of Faerie to life. She’s also a master at creating tension, beguiling me both with scenes of brutal gut-wrenching violence and descriptions of intricate political maneuvering and power plays.
But my favorite part of the book was the character development. While I might not be Jude’s biggest fan, I nonetheless found her extremely well-written and genuinely interesting. Her personality is also a bit of a mess—but in the good way. I know that doesn’t really make sense, and it’s a little tough to explain her appeal, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of rooting for a damaged and morally ambiguous character, then perhaps you understand.
Then there’s Prince Cardan. What a piece of work he is. But here’s the thing: I want to believe that even the most loathsome characters can have a chance at redeeming themselves. And while Cardan may have burned his bridges with Jude by being such a nasty little shit, part of me still wanted to see that he was capable of doing the decent thing. But as much as I adore a good character redemption arc, the sad fact is, very few authors can actually pull one off. However, Holly Black managed to open my eyes to a whole new way of doing things. More than that, I don’t want to say for fear of revealing too much, but I’ll just say there’s a third-act shocker that will have you reeling.
In case you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this book. Blurring the lines between love and hate, kindness and cruelty, truth and deceit, The Cruel Prince was a powerful, lyrical, and captivating read. I think we can safely call my first experience with the work of Holly Black a great success, and I’m definitely signing up for more.
Audiobook Comments: I truly think one of the reasons why I was so engrossed in this audiobook was because of Caitlin Kelly’s narration. I’ve not heard any of her other performances before, but if I get another chance to listen to her read again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Well narrated and well worth it.