The Cruel Prince by Holly Black


  • Title: The Cruel Prince
  • Author: Holly Black
  • Genre: Young adult literature, fantasy
  • Pages: 384
  • Format: Hardback
    GoodReads, Amazon
  • Grade: D (2/5)


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 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.


Okay, here’s the deal. I don’t normally read faerie fiction, and I ‘ve never read a book by Holly Black. However, the synopsis was really intriguing so I pre-ordered it. Besides, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book, so I thought I’d try it out. But it wasn’t entirely what I expected, and  I’m not sure how I feel about it.

While this is one of those stories that’s easy to keep reading, it didn’t really pick up for me until about half-way through. Even still, I wanted to keep reading because the world Jude lives in is fascinating. It’s corrupt and deceiving and in a way, frightening.

And Jude and Cardan were interesting characters. They were well-developed with real flaws but redeemable qualities too, and by the end of the book, I had a pretty good understanding of who they were. More importantly, Jude is a strong, female protagonist. And if you keep following my blog, you’ll learn that this is something that’s really important to me. She’s brave, clever, and a risk-taker. She doesn’t let someone else solve her problems for her.

But the other characters felt flat. To me, they were more like archetypes, and I hope that the next book remedies this problem. The only characters I felt were truly well-developed were Cardan and Jude. The others were just there. To me, the villains felt purely bad, the sisters like tropes, and Ghost et al. like your typical sidekicks. There was almost this cartoonish quality to it. And yes, I understand that they’re faeries, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be more complexity to who they are because they’re still complicated beings.

There were also a lot of things that just felt forced. For example,  Black attempts to merge the modern world with the faerie world. So essentially, characters can go to the human world and shop at the mall. That seemed so trivial and out of place to me. Something about it just didn’t work. The same thing happens when Black addresses bullying.  The instances where Jude experiences bullying were so incredibly ridiculous it made it hard to relate to her. I understand that there’s a lot of hate and prejudice, but I think it would have been more effective to let that play out in a more subtle manner.

And then there’s the whole everyone wants power and will do anything to get the Iron Throne and we’re all selfish jerks thing. Wait…did I say Iron Throne? Oops. But in all seriousness, there’s this trend in young adult literature to create a YA Game of Thrones. It hasn’t worked yet. At least not in anything I’ve read. It comes off as the writer trying to write the YA Game of Thrones, and quite frankly, it’s usually cheesy. And this happens in The Cruel Prince.  Maybe it’s because I’m not in the intended audience anymore, but it didn’t work for me (and I LOVE Game of Thrones. Maybe that’s the problem).

Black also has the habit of using Jude’s narration to justify how something playout out or why a character said something, etc. So for example, a faerie might lie (which they are unable to do) and normally this would be a plot hole. Later, Jude would discuss how that really wasn’t a lie, so it wasn’t breaking the faeries-don’t-lie-rule. Or Black might take something that was subtly implied earlier in the book and then spell it out later for the reader. That really annoyed me because part of reading is interpreting, and explaining it to the reader essentially shows the reader that the author has assumed they can’t reach that conclusion on their own. Besides, if you have to justify the characterization or whatever, then what you wrote probably wasn’t that good. You just took the easy way out.

And finally, I hated all the scenes where Jude explains a plan or pieces together the puzzle. It’s pretty much like what detectives did in old books or movies, where they explain how they reached their conclusion in this really cheesy way at the end of the novel. Seriously?

I honestly didn’t mean for this to turn into a rant, but there were so many things that really brought down the quality of this novel for me. I liked the idea, but I don’t think it was executed well. However, there is a lot of hype out there for this book and a lot of people do like it, so just because there are these problems doesn’t mean that the book isn’t worth reading. It was fun to read, but I think I had the most fun picking apart the things that didn’t work.


3 thoughts on “The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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