The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King


Goodreads: The Wicked King
Series: The Folk of the Air #2
Source: Purchased
Published: January 7, 2019

Official Summary

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Star Divider


Like most of the blogosphere, I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince, so picking up The Wicked King and seeing how all the court intrigue and drama would play out and how all the characters would develop into their new roles was a given for me.  I actually even preordered the book, which is generally not something I do. (To be honest, I don’t even purchase that many books in general.)  My verdict: The Wicked King is just about as good as The Cruel Prince, though it suffers from basically the same flaws, which I had hoped would be more resolved this time around.

If you like wild, plot-driven stories with plotting and twists and turns and so many moving pieces that you wonder how the political players will manager them all, this series is 100% for you, and this is the primary reason I love it.  I love court intrigue, and I love when authors manage to make it genuinely complex while giving characters believable motivations and actions based on those motivations.  I read The Wicked King in a single day because I just wanted to know what happened next.

The characterization is where the book fails a little, which I also suggested in my review of The Cruel Prince.  I was hoping we’d get more of Cardan here, and we sort of did–but I guess the reality is that the book is from Jude’s point of view and she seems to barely speak to the guy, certainly not in a meaningful capacity.  Black is still playing with the idea that Fae seem are fickle and cruel and perhaps it’s impossible to say they are truly kind, even when some of them have nice streaks.  I appreciate what a balancing act this is, but I also think Cardan’s feelings and motivations need to come more to the forefront.

Jude, on the other hand, was pretty well-developed, and it was fascinating to watch her struggle with her new role.  My one issue with her is that she has this enormous blind spot where she believes that she personally must make every single decision regarding the welfare of the kingdom or everything will fall to pieces.  She hoards information, does whatever she wants, and is convinced that no one can do better than she can.  It’s infuriating (though perhaps intentionally, as it’s clear that Black wrote this as a character flaw and as a viewpoint Jude really needs to overcome).

However, Jude’s belief that she is indispensable and must do everything herself also runs the plot in ways that are occasionally unconvincing.  Particularly, this comes into play at the end of the book, but as I personally DO NOT think Jude must do everything herself, I think some of the drama of the ending was lost on me.  I certainly didn’t see the ending coming, but I don’t think  I was as shocked or emotionally affected by it as a lot of other readers were.

Finally, some of the side characters also got some more character development (for instance, Vivi and Nicasia). Taryn remains a flighty mystery to me. I have no idea what she’s gong to do next and no idea WHY she did it, once she does. Hopefully this gets resolved in the next book, along with Cardan’s motivations.

Basically, if you liked The Cruel Prince, you will be suitably pleased by this second installment. If you haven’t started the series yet but like fantasy with court intrigue and a bit of darkness, I recommend this.

4 stars Briana

15 thoughts on “The Wicked King by Holly Black

  1. Vera says:

    Wonderful review! I haven’t read The Wicked King but agree with you regarding the characterisation of The Cruel Prince. Jude is indeed well developed but those other characters do remain a bit of a mystery. I’m looking forward to reading The Wicked King. Court politics and flawed characters are my thing. 🙂

    Have you read The Lost Sisters? It’s a novella from The Folk of the Air series and is a kind of a rehearsal ‘apology’ speech that Taryn is preparing for Jude to explain why she behaved the way she did. It’s really short (too short for my liking given a lot of that novella is a preview of The Wicked King) but does shed some light into Taryn’s motives. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I just noticed “The Lost Sisters” on Goodreads yesterday. I hadn’t even known it existed. I just never read e-novellas and am honestly annoyed when reading them seems necessary to understanding the main series. But I might have to look into it anyway because I do not get Taryn at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    I can’t wait to read this one but I’ve made the decision to read it nearer the time when the third and final one comes out because I don’t do so well at waiting between books! I’m hoping the book gods will grant me patience!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aimee (Aimee, Always) says:

    I wasn’t the biggest fan of book 1, but I did find it intriguing, so I’m glad this one is still up to par in that aspect. I’m sad to hear about Cardan, though! I was curious about his character in The Cruel Prince, so it sucks that we’re not given an opportunity to see into his head a bit more. 😦 Fantastic review, though!

    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bookbeachbunny says:

    I agree with you on Jude’s constant need at this point to believe the world can’t run without her. I have to laugh at her shock sometimes that Cardan might have a thought she didn’t put in his head or might actually surprise her in a good way. She is a fascinating character though. Hopefully I can say the same for the others after book three but I do have to wonder if Black’s not keeping it that way for the whole inscrutable untrustworthy fae element. I still have a few chapters left and then another year to wait! (Again!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I get that Cardan’s part of the deal was “I don’t want to have to rule,” but she seems really blind to the fact that some things have changed. It also doesn’t necessarily have to be Cardan who does the work. Surely there is SOMEONE in the entire world whom she can trust to do something, instead of believing she must do it all herself.


  5. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I’ve heard great things about this series. I also enjoy court intrigue tales, but I struggle to find ones I connect to. The most recent one I read and loved was Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. I cannot recall reading a YA/MG book which satisfied me in this genre! Any recommendations for other books which feature court intrigue?

    I’ll be adding this series to my TBR, but I won’t pick it up any time soon. I only like to read book series if all the books have been published. I guess I’ll just have to wait! XD

    Liked by 1 person

  6. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ah fair enough that this struggles with the same basic flaws. The first one was definitely a wild ride- so I’m glad to hear this keeps that up. I’m glad to hear Jude worked as a character again- that’s really good that black wrote in some flaws for her to overcome. I’m definitely still looking forward to this! Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

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