This book starts with a murder. Two, actually. The grisly murder of a woman and her husband by her ex-husband, who just so happens to be Madoc, a vicious faerie warmonger. But rather than return to Elfhame empty handed, he takes with him his daughter Vivi, but also her seven-year-old half-sisters Taryn and Jude, who he chooses to raise in his estate, in the world of the fae.
Raised as mortals in the world of the faeries is a precarious, often dangerous and always brutal existence. The Cruel Prince follows Jude, now a teenager, as she aims to prove herself as more than just human, as a powerful warrior set to be chosen as a knight in a faerie court. However, Jude's hopes and aims do not go to plan, and soon she finds herself hired as a spy for one of the princes in line for the throne of Elfhame.
This is a novel of political machinations, of lies and brutality, of cruelty and beauty and brilliance.
Someone on GoodReads described it as the literary equivalent of being hit by a truck, and I think that sums it up pretty well.
There is so much to discuss in this novel that it is hard to know where to begin -- Jude's ambition, her sisters' secrets, Madoc's secret allegiances, cruel Cardan, beautiful Locke and the fruit! But I genuinely think it's best if you go into this book knowing as little as I did.
Jude is a brilliant, furious creature -- the product of murder, danger and brutality, strength built upon her fragility and weaknesses as a mere mortal, easily swayed and damaged by the world around her.
I know it is February (though I read this at the start of January) and so this is quite a ridiculous thing to say, but The Cruel Prince is one of my favourite books so far this year. The thing is I think its going to stay as one of my favourite books. I think I've found a new favourite author, and I honestly can't believe I've not read any Holly Black until this. I've already gifted a copy of this to a friend who loves her writing, knowing that they would absolutely need to read this -- and it also meant I have someone to talk to about my goddamn emotions.
I'm going to be counting the days until I can get back to Jude and her story; roll on the rest of The Folk of the Air series.
What to read next:
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Call by Peadar O'Guillin
Thank you kindly to Hot Key Books and Readers First for sharing this copy with me.