The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince Owlcrate


GoodreadsThe Cruel Prince
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Source: OwlCrate Box Purchase
Published: January 2, 2018

Official Summary

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Star Divider


The only other Holly Black book I’ve read was The Darkest Part of the Forest, and I didn’t love it, but I was intrigued by the amazing amount of hype and love that The Cruel Prince has received.  Readers seem obsessed, and if there’s one thing that can catch my attention, it’s a well-received YA fantasy novel.  Ultimately, I think the hype is slightly overblown, but not much. This is an engaging read with strong world-building, a fast-paced plot, and some complicated court intrigue.

The court intrigue is the strongest draw for me.  I love watching characters work out complicated plots and try to get the best of one another.  I love characters who are clever and brave or maybe even ruthless.  There were a couple times in the book where I was legitimately surprised by the turn of events, which is always a plus for me; I hate being able to predict the plot starting at page five.

The non-intrigue parts of the plot (if you can truly say that these events were unrelated to court politics) are also engaging.  I admit that the book has a bit of a Sarah J. Maas feel in the sense that I sometimes thought events happened or characters made decisions largely because they seemed dramatic or epic and not because they completely made sense, but I was invested in the book for entertainment, and entertained I was.

However, this does mean I was slightly disappointed in the characters.  They have a lot going on, and most of the characters come really, really close to being amazingly complex and nuanced.  Are they monsters?  Are they kind?  Are they the product of their own choices?  Or of their horrible childhoods?  Yet by the end of the book, I felt they were underdeveloped, especially Cardan.  Possibly Holly Black is dealing with the issue that Fae traditionally have a cruel streak, while she also wants to make them somewhat likable, but I’m not sure she’s found the right balance yet.

However, my wanting to know more about the characters is a good incentive to read book two, The Wicked King.  I also want to know what Cardan is going to get up to because I’m sure it will be immensely entertaining.  I’m not as in love with this book as many readers (but then I suppose that “overly exciting squeeing blogger” isn’t generally my vibe here), but I did like it, and I recommend it.  I particularly thought it was a good take on Fae, as I personally find Fae books hit-or-miss.

4 stars Briana

19 thoughts on “The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

  1. Kelly Brigid says:

    Lovely review, Briana! I wasn’t in love with The Cruel Prince either, but I thought it was a solid read, and the court intrigue was definitely my favorite aspect of the novel. I’m curious to see how the characters develop in the sequel. ❤


  2. nicolinesimone says:

    I really enjoyed this book which was my first Holly Black book. I agree with your point on characters development regarding Cardan however I believe and hope we will see more development in The Wicked King.
    And btw I have never seen that book cover before! Is it a hardback? It is really cool!


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I hope we see more of Cardan, too! We kind of only got hints here like, “He’s terrible but abused so we feel a little sorry for him but actually not really because he’s still a terrible person.” It didn’t feel like HE was complex, I guess. We got an explanation of why he might be cruel but not much of an indication he would be anything other than cruel, so he was still pretty one-dimensional.

      Yes, it’s the hardcover that came in the OwlCrate box a couple months ago! I actually kind of like the regular cover a little better because I like the thorns that this doesn’t have. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • nicolinesimone says:

        Yes true i agree with you. I hope we will know more about him in the next book so he can develop more than one dimension.
        Yeah the regular is quite cool but have never seen this one before! I like the crown though it has some symbolism


  3. Alexia Cambaling says:

    Great review! I’m on the fence about picking this up because it might turn out to be like SJM’s books and I’m no longer a fan. Although, if the take is really different and fresh, I might give this one a shot. Especially if it’s a darker version of fae.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I read the first three ACOTAR books and enjoyed them even though I think Maas will do anything for the drama (character development is irrelevant when you can make someone do something out of character that will be dramatic!) and I think she has terrible prose, which has unfortunately kind of infiltrated YA. I finished the trilogy and had fun with it, but I’m done, and I also don’t want to see her influence on YA books everywhere. However, I think The Cruel Prince was overall better-constructed. Fae books kind of all sound at least a *little* similar to me because they’re working with the same source material/influences, but this did differentiate itself from Maas for me anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hannah @ peanutbutter&books says:

    I’m so ready to read more about Cardan’s backstory in TWK. I agree that his development wasn’t THAT fleshed out in TCP, but I’m assuming it’s because the author wants to continue it in the sequel? I’m still utterly and unashamedly in love with his character, though ❤ The Cruel Prince is definitely my favorite work of Holly Black's; I wasn't the hugest fan of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Darkest Part of the Forest was good, but not amazing XD


  5. Sammie says:

    “overly exciting squeeing blogger”

    Oops, guilty as charged. xD I loved this book, but I agree with some of your points. 🙂 Some of the characters’ actions were just so frustrating and made no sense, and for some reason, me yelling at them didn’t do any good. Go figure.

    I loved Cardan because he’s such a crap person, but he’s so honest and upfront about it, so I’m conflicted. I’m excited to see what direction it’ll take in The Wicked King, though, and what role he’ll play from here on out. 😀


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