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