And before I go any further, I'm not much of a fairy fan. I don't mind reading them - I read Cassandra Clare and her books have fairies in them, have read the first two books in Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series many years ago (here are the reviews for Iron King and Iron Daughter) and a year or two back, I did read Holly Black's Darkest Part of the Forest, which was ok - I can't honest remember much from it barring it having a dark fairy tale quality to it and having an gay romance at its twisted heart, which I liked.
But everyone has been excited and raving over Cruel Prince! Even I got catch up with the buzz and requested an eProof of this, but due to my fantasy reading slump, I haven't gone near it. But, before I went on holiday to Cyprus, I was chatting to Olivia from That Fiction Life on instagram about Taken Moon candles and Cruel Prince was mentioned. When I was on holiday, and was finishing Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, I wondered what to read next when, out of nowhere, my brain started chanting "Cruel Prince!"
So, I read it. And here we go!
Cruel Prince is the first book in a new series set in the world of the Fey, which sits close to ours but not quite. In it, we follow Jude who, at the age of seven, saw a fairy kill both her parents and steal her, and her two sisters into the High Court of Faerie. They are now teenagers and Jude wants to fit in desperate. Shame the fey won't let her forget her mortality and the worse is Prince Cardan. But to win a place in Court, Jude has to defy him and her "father" and face the consequences...
But Court is full of backstabbing and political twistings of truth (fairies can not lie, but they are experts in telling the truth that reveals everything and nothing), and Jude will have to do unthinkable things to protect her sisters and Faerie.
Where do I start with this? This book is crazy. I kinda expected this as I was reading a fairy book and in most books that contain fairies, they are dark and tricksters. But these fairies are violent and terrifying at times, while hugely political and the twists/betrayals kept the book moving fast and I never felt settled on anything the characters said or did.
The characters themselves are intriguing. The fairies, like I said, are dark, blood-thirsty and manipulative. But so are the humans. Jude, our main character who's telling the story, is hugely flawed and manipulative herself. She's more of an anti-hero than I expected (no one warned me out that!), but she is so flawed and damaged that she does things then changes her mind with no real thought, she made reading this novel unpredictable and in an unpredictable world of the fey, this makes this a gripping, terrifying and compelling read.
Most twists, I saw or suspected coming, but there was a few near the end that made my jaw drop and I have to give Holly Black a huge applaud as I was so blindsided by them, I knew I had to read the sequel, The Wicked King, just to see how on earth the characters were going to recover from them!
Most things worked for me and made me click through my kindle over a course of four/five days. However, there were one or two things that did grate on me slightly.
The first was names. For the first 15-20%, I found it really hard to connect with the characters. It was because it was dark and I had to find my "in" with Jude, but the main thing was the names. There are so many names to get in your head and to keep straight in your head. I imagine the Court to be small so everyone knows everyone, but it took a good while for the names to sink in my head and them to stick. Once they did, I was flying!
The second was the romance. Yes, there is a bit of romance in here. And it's hard to describe how I feel about them. One made me go "Yuck" over it and the second was so complicated that I am weirdly intrigued to see what Holly is going to do with the characters. It can go one of two or three ways. None of them are good.
But even with the flaws that Cruel Prince have, I couldn't put this down and I know that I will be desperate to read Wicked King when it comes out at the beginning of next year (so I might need to reread Cruel Prince before the year is out - just to keep it fresh in my head)