The Cruel Prince Book Review

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is the first book in her popular fantasy trilogy, The Folk of the Air. In this book, readers are introduced to the main character, Jude, who lives as the adopted child of her mother’s faerie ex-husband and murderer, Madoc. Jude and her twin Taryn are the only humans that live in the magical yet dangerous world of Elfame. This island, hidden from the human eye, is full of beings ranging from faeries, hobgoblins, mermaids, and any other fantasy creature imaginable. Jude and her twin are frequently targeted and looked down upon by magical folk who inhabit the island, but no one despises the twins more than the King of Elfhame’s youngest and most hated son, Prince Cardan. As the King looks to step down from power, Elfhame is left in a moment of weakness. The two eldest princes, Dain and Balekin, battle for their father’s favor in hopes of becoming the next High King to rule the land. After a tragedy ensues at the new king’s coronation, Elfhame is left with both of its obvious rulers unable to take power. Jude, determined to prove herself to the homeland that has constantly rejected her, looks to restore the peace in Elfhame. She will do whatever it takes, even if it means seeking out the help of her mortal enemy, the forgotten Prince Cardan.

Jude and Cardan’s dynamic was fierce and compelling. They could switch from near murderous hatred to familiar cooperation within the same scene, always keeping the reader unaware of how they truly felt about the other. Jude also acted as a relatable main character, struggling with ordinary issues while also working to save her kingdom. This kept her from coming across as invincible and made the story seem realistic, as realistic as a fantasy book can be. The plot was fast-paced and constantly changing, full of new twists and obstacles the duo had to overcome. It quickly became captivating and was oftentimes hard to put down. The fairytale-esque setting added to the overall whimsy and fanciful nature of the story, making the reader feel as though nothing were truly as it seemed. Although the setting was engaging, the overall world never seemed to fit together and lacked cohesiveness. A forest would be described as vast, yet could be walked through in under an hour. The maps at the beginning of the book lacked adequate scale and further added to the confusion. There were times, too, where the story felt rushed. The book itself, although fairly short, could’ve easily had an extra couple hundred or so pages that would have helped with the overall pacing

We read this book as a pair in a sort of book club setting and rate it a solid 4/5. Although there were some minute inconsistencies, overall, they did not take away from our enjoyment. Reading the book in a group made the experience a lot more lively as it fueled a lot of interesting discussions afterward. We’d recommend this book to anyone ages 14 and up who enjoys fantasy with a few modern twists.