YA Weekend Audio: The Wicked King 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 2 of The Folk of the Air
Publisher: Hachette Audio (January 8, 2019)
Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Last year I read Holly Black for the very first time with The Cruel Prince and discovered why she is so beloved among YA fiction fans. I also understand now why so many call her the Queen of Fae. I was aware she made her name with stories set in Faerie, writing about the Fae folk—who tend not to be very nice people in her depictions. Her portrayals of Faerie are also dark places filled with treacherous politics, where one wrong move can end you. In this sense, her new series is so far living up to all the standards she’s already established, and I was really pleased that The Wicked King was in every way as good as its predecessor.
As always, my reviews are spoiler-free, though it would be impossible not to talk about this book without referring to some of the people and events from the previous one, so I highly recommend finishing The Cruel Prince first before proceeding. It has been about five months since we last saw Jude Duarte, who managed to pull off the greatest coup in the history of Faerie by putting Carden on the throne, making him High King. However, his path to ascendancy also came with a catch: he has to obey every order Jude gives him. Only by secretly controlling Cardan is she able to keep her younger brother Oak safe.
But of course, no one enjoys being under someone else’s thumb, least of all Cardan, who uses all his Fae trickery to try and thwart Jude’s commands, attempting to weaken her position any chance he gets. Yet at the same time, their attraction to each other cannot be denied. Now they must put aside their hostilities, at least for a time, until they can uncover the identity of a traitor who has been revealed to be close to Jude, working with the court’s enemies to bring down everything she holds dear. Already, the Queen of the Undersea is eying the change in succession as an opportunity to break the longstanding treaty between their two peoples, using her daughter in a plot to steal the throne.
Pretty much the entire story revolves around the various characters scheming, trying to get the upper hand. Everyone wants power, even if they say they don’t. You can never trust what anyone says, or take their words at face value; Fae are experts at double-speak and bending truth, even if they can’t tell an outright lie. This is what I love about Holly Black’s faeries: they’re nasty, manipulative, and absolutely merciless. If you enjoy reading about royal court intrigue and power plays, then this is the series for you. There are no clear lines between the sides, which makes it extremely difficult to tell an enemy from an ally.
Speaking of which, nothing illustrates this better than the complicated relationship between Jude and Cardan. There’s undeniable chemistry between these two, even though the romance plot itself is understated compared to everything else happening around them. In fact, what we get is more of a game than an actual romance; the story does a good job feeding into the electrifying tensions between our two main characters, teasing the reader’s interest and curiosity to keep reading to find out just what the hell is going on.
Jude herself is a force to be reckoned with. For someone hiding so many secrets and juggling so many plots, not to mention whose loyalties are pulled in so many directions, she sure conducts herself with excellent poise and careful control, even though she is up against some of the Fae realm’s best manipulators. She’s also not too proud to admit she’s gotten a taste for power while ruling on behalf of Cardan, though she is also willing to make sacrifices for the sake of her family—whether their goals are aligned with hers or not. She has become a different person than she was in the first book—stronger, shrewder, and more ambitious—but loyalty still means a lot to her, and that’s why I still hold her in high regard.
And by the way, Holly Black may be the Queen of Fae, but now I know she’s also the queen of torturous endings. If you thought the ending to The Cruel Prince was a bombshell, wait until you finish The Wicked King. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable sequel. Full of twists and turns, The Wicked King is a wild ride from start to finish. Everything that Jude goes through in this one—her first experience with real power, the huge leaps she makes in her relationship with Cardan, and her realization that she likes it all—has major implications on the growth of her character and the future of this series, considering how this book ended. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Audibook Comments: Holly Black truly hit the jackpot when it comes to the narrator for the audiobooks of her Folk of the Air series. Caitlin Kelly’s narration meshes with the book’s writing style perfectly, and her voice is also a good match for Jude. Overall, Ms. Kelly delivered an impressive performance and the audio version of The Wicked King was another quality listen, just like the first book.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Cruel Prince (Book 1)