By Holly Black
Jude was seven years old 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.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war 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.
I finished this novel about an hour ago, and even though I have about a million other topics I had planned to write about, I cannot hold off on talking about this one for another minute. Because wow. I have not enjoyed a YA novel this much in years–probably since I was in the target audience range. I could not put this book down, and when life forced me to do so, it was all I could think about.
At first glance, The Cruel Prince seems like any other YA fantasy novel. It had been sitting on my To-Read shelf for years, and though I have always loved Holly Black’s novels, I felt like “girl ends up in Faerieland with an arrogant, handsome prince” wasn’t unique enough to warrant almost 400 pages worth of reading time. I was completely off base. Beneath the cliched synopsis and flashy cover is a fantastic novel with depth, emotion, mystery, and genuine excitement.
The first thing that caught me off guard about this novel was Jude’s relationship with Cardan. I went in expecting him to smolder at her (possibly menacingly) from shadows, to exhibit moderately unkind behaviors that are later explained to be a misunderstanding, and declare his undying love for her at about two-thirds of the way through the novel. What I got instead was a genuinely disturbing depiction of bullying with a magical twist. When we first see Jude at her lessons, we discover that Cardan and his friends have made life a living hell for the mortal girl. You can’t help but empathize with Jude as the faeries repeatedly subjugate and humiliate her, and you find yourself hating the faeries as much as she does.
Jude’s relatability is one of the reasons why she is one of my favorite YA heroines ever. She is a real girl, with flaws and fears. She genuinely bungles a few situations in the novel and doesn’t magically walk away from every situation unscathed. Her growth and struggles throughout the novel set her apart as a YA character that feels authentic.
I also can not say enough about how much this novel surprised me. I’ll be honest, I’m an extremely jaded reader, especially about YA novels. Having read way more than my fair share of YA fantasy growing up, it’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely unsure what would happen in one of these novels. The Cruel Price had a few moments that totally blindsided me, and I absolutely loved it.
One last thing that I loved about the novel was Faerieland itself. Holly Black has created a fully fleshed-out world with gorgeous descriptions, and recurring characters. Having previously read many of her novels, I always enjoy when she includes references or characters from her other novels, and The Cruel Prince is no exception. I loved reading about familiar places and people, and I was completely swept up in the descriptions of the revels, clothing, and locations in this novel.
If YA fantasy is your thing and you’re part of the 1% haven’t read The Cruel Prince yet, I highly advise you to check it out. It’s fun, fast-paced, and reminds me of everything I enjoy about YA literature. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go tear through the sequel, The Wicked King.