Book Review: The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

26032825I cannot imagine a better book to have started off 2018. From day to day, I was literally angry when I had to put the book down to be responsible and do things like sleep or work. And honestly, I should have ignored the world for a day and devoured it in one breathtaking sweep. It is that good.

So let’s get into the review.

PREMISE

Jude and her two sisters are taken to Faerie to live with their mother’s former Fae War General lover, growing up in a harsh world of magic and unfriendly Folk. Jude hates that she is mortal and covets many things about the fey. Her life becomes dangerously entangled as her desire for respect, power and adventure meets the attention of the royals…especially Cardan, the prince she hates above all.

THE GOOD

The world, the diversity, the sense of each character–even the side characters. We aren’t entrenched in learning only about Jude and her relation to the world as the MC. Instead there is an array of well-developed and independently driven characters who leave little breadcrumbs about what they’ve been through, where they’ve been, and who they’ve been with. Because the Folk can’t lie, they craft their sentences in a way that can leave things with a lot of ambiguity, but when it all starts to click…it is one heck of a ride.

From the first brutal pages, the author makes no apologies for the blood-driven power of Madoc, the true father of the eldest sister Vivienne, who has come to reclaim his daughter (and her younger sisters) from the mortal world. You can feel the immediate fear and reverence for the immortal. I love the way that Madoc is made; incredibly strong and strict, but also pliable and deferring to his daughters’ whims and wills at times. And his family is, as you can imagine, not a nuclear unit. His first wife is slain, his new wife is fey and has a son, and then he has Vivienne, Taryn and Jude. He loves, protects and educates all of them, but he is so much more than a father and the image he projects.

Faerie and the mortal world. Yes, you get two coinciding worlds in this beauty of a book. Instead of making the worlds geographically separated by a wall or continent or a magic parallel world, these worlds are overlapped the way you may have seen in early fairy tales. Vivi, while she is one of the folk, likes to travel back to the mortal world with her sisters, and by herself at times. Her rebellion against Madoc is to shun Faerie and enjoy all the human joys of malls, a secret human girlfriend, and indulging her sisters with coffee, candy and shopping. One of my favorite moments is when Jude gets to glimpse part of the mortal world while in Faerie. The description was fascinating and gorgeous. It made me feel how close they were, how far they were, and where Jude’s real interest was in this world.

The royals are equally fascinating. We don’t get to intimately understand all of them, however we learn just enough about each, chapter by chapter. The ailing king. The Crown Prince Dain, the “Cruel” Prince Cardan, the power-hungry Prince Balekin, and glimpses of the princesses and others, including royals from other courts. Cardan was by far my favorite, being deliciously complex and…well, I should move him to the next section.

THE GREAT

“He looks like a faerie lover stepped out of a ballad, the kind where no good comes to the girl who runs away with him.”

The anti-love interest. I know I am a huge fan of anti-heroes, but I didn’t quite understand the anti-love interest until now. But now I get it. And it’s glorious.

Cardan is Jude’s main source of torment and her favorite thing to hate. So from this first introduction in the quote above, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but to think of Rhysand from ACOTAR. The acknowledgment of an unworldly beauty that draws someone in, but also compels them in the other direction. They are satellites of each other in this book, much like Rhys and Feyre were in the first book…entangled by circumstance, but that is where the similarities end. Cardan is a tormentor to her. Jude is a disrespectful and unworthy human to him. Hence, their classmate and royal vs. human relationship statues hold magnificent tension. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are a few twists in this book for them.

“I love my parents’ murderer; I suppose I could love anyone.”

Jude. Jude is the other great of this book. I loved her sisters, but I loved Jude the most because she is so incredibly flawed and aware of it. And what’s better…she doesn’t act like you would expect a heroine to act. Maybe because she isn’t going to be a heroine, ultimately. Two more books to figure her out. She has some noble thoughts, but is also a jumble of envy, longing, rapid mood swings, sisterly love, sisterly hate, and a fair dose of scheming. She isn’t described as particularly beautiful, which I think made me love her more because we are seeing her through her eyes. Jude comments on noticing things like her height and hips and the heavy weight of her breasts in comparison to the lithe fey bodies around her. She feels nearly gross with humanness, having to deal with things like deodorant and tampons.

My favorite thing about Jude though? She doesn’t know exactly what she’s capable of. She has a gut-sense of what to do, but mostly she seems to be getting by on her training from school, from Madoc, and instincts. It feels like she could fall off the very narrow blade she walks on at any moment. And that really propelled the story forward for me.

BUY, BORROW OR PASS

BUY. Absolutely buy. This series has only started and it is already a favorite for me. That ending is going to haunt me until the next one releases in 2019!

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