Do you know why the Cruel Prince’s hair is so big? It’s full of secrets.* // Author: Holly Black // Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: 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.
*all Mean Girls jokes aside, I loved this drama AF book
This is going to be a three part review. Part one // I love one (1) young woman. Part two // Jude x Cardan, OTP: Maybe I’m into it?? Part three // This world is darkly inspiring yo.
Please jump to my Final Thoughts section for a spoiler free reaction.
I stand in front of my window and imagine myself a fearless knight, imagine myself a witch who hid her heart in her finger and then chopped her finger off.”
“I’m so tired,” I say out loud. “So tired.”
I sit there for a long time, watching the rising sun gild the sky, listening to the waves crash as the tide goes out, when a creature flies up to alight on the edge of my window. At first it seems like an owl, but it’s got hob eyes. “Tired of what, sweetmeat?” it asks me.
I sigh and answer honestly for once. “Of being powerless.”
The hob studies my face, then flies off into the night.”
Jude is so refreshingly angry. I will stan this aspiring HBIC forever. On one hand, it can really annoy me when characters just dive into a fantasy world like it’s no big deal // I love when people get excited and freaking geek out (their world was upended!! MAGIC IS REAL) or there’s culture shock and a REACTION, but so often it’s just, oh, my life sucks and I shall do nothing forever more to change my situation. What does Jude do? She gets pissed. She’s trapped in an impossible situation. She’s surrounded by supernatural beings that would love to eat her up and spit her out. And she’s terrified and painfully aware of just how human she is and she’s flawed AF, but she’s a fighter.
I love her.
The relationships in this story are so complex. The writing is actually quite spare, but I think that makes the tense scenes (like when Jude and her adoptive father, Madoc, are talking murder and court gossip and how does one sleep at night when you’ve committed evil acts) that much more so. I loved the relationships Jude has with her two very different sisters. I’m just so sad that Jude didn’t take the easy way out, didn’t run away, but this is her story, her hurtling train of revenge careening off the tracks. It’s inevitable. It’s addictive. It hurts. I didn’t want to look away.
Seven years of drinking poison, of never sleeping, of living on high alert. Seven more years, and then maybe Faerie will be a safer, better land. And I will have earned my place in it.
The great game, Locke had called it when he accused me of playing it. I wasn’t then, but I am now. And maybe I learned something from Locke. He made me into a story, and now I am going to make a story out of someone else.
My heart broke especially when Jude tried so desperately, foolishly, stupidly, to rescue the other stolen girl, Sophie, [highlight for spoilers] who ends up jumping to her death because of the abuse she has suffered at the hands of the fae. The cruel, albeit cliched, beauty of this moment is that Jude is trying to save herself. The Jude That Was. That naive innocent little sheep. There’s such a great internal struggle that Jude goes through, that ultimately boils down to, Would I be this person, violent and scheming and desperate, regardless of circumstance? And that is just so fun to see written, and written well, in a YA fantasy book.
**Rowan Blanchard would definitely eat all men alive and smile sweetly while doing so; I love one (1) other young woman
Cardan’s cruel mouth is surprisingly soft, and for a long moment after our lips touch, he’s still as a statue. His eyes close, lashes brushing my cheek. I shudder, as you’re supposed to when someone walks over your grave. Then his hands come up, gentle as they glide over my arms. If I didn’t know better, I’d say his touch was reverent, but I do know better. His hands are moving slowly because he is trying to stop himself. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want to want this.
He tastes like sour wine.
Jude and Cardan’s push and pull becomes palpable. They’re holding so much back, keeping caged so much emotion, that this “big” kiss scene is riveting. Was I disappointed that a lot of their relationship felt cliched and truncated? Sure. The main focus of this book is Jude and Jude’s scheming and I love that; so Jude and Cardan’s relationship felt tacked on to me. But I did like the few scenes where they almost, but not quite, spit out their feelings. I don’t know where this relationship is going to go; I don’t know if I hope for a “good” outcome or not. Basically I just want Jude, and her sisters and lil Oak, to be happy and “good.” And for Cardan to step out of the shadow of his crappy childhood and fight for what he wants. Jude is fighting, even if her actions are causing ripples that will become a tidal wave she can’t control. I guess I just feel that Cardan was too static, too unknown, too stuck in the of course you should pity me and like me because I’m not just a jerk, I’m a jerk with a heart of gold right? LI trope. But it’s fascinating to think of Jude from his perspective. And all the possibilities of their slow burn whatever-this-is will be fascinating to read in the sequel.
Jude to Cardan: “You can’t be jealous of me. You don’t have to live at the sufferance of the same person who murdered your parents. You don’t have to stay angry because if you don’t, there’s a bottomless well of fear ready to open up under you.”
Cardan to Jude: “Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It’s disgusting, and I can’t stop.”
Just, gosh they are complicated. I cautiously like that. I hope it doesn’t become a “we’re so messed up we’re only good enough for each other” relationship. I also don’t want it to be that Cardan is into Jude because she doesn’t want or need to be liked (she wants to win, to beat the faeries at their own cruel game) // she’s unattainable, forbidden, “wrong” for him, so he’s into that. I just… I guess I just want more. Good job, Black. I’m hooked in my hesitant heart for these two. But I don’t think I’ve seen enough of them together to really be “die on this hill” OTP for them.
You are nothing. You barely exist at all. Your only purpose is to create more of your kind before you die.
He’s wrong about me. I am going to make my mayfly life count for something.
I actually think Black did a wonderful job of crafting her world of Faerie. (This is my first Black book. Years and years ago I read Tithe, but it almost doesn’t count as I don’t remember any of it.) She did a wonderful job of making me believe that faeries would be interested in the worthless lives of fleeting humans. Because we change. We’re fierce little beasties. We’ll do anything to survive and thrive even though our time on this earth is the length of a sigh to a Faerie. At any time in our short existence, we have the ability to wipe our slates clean and begin again. That’s a kind of magic. Our resilience.
When Locke, a possible LI for Jude, spoke these words: “Because you’re like a story that hasn’t happened yet. Because I want to see what you will do. I want to be part of the unfolding of the tale,” that germinating idea of mine (humans are awesome) bloomed. The Fae need humans to survive, not just in terms of population, but because otherwise, their long, epic, powerful, magic-woven lives would be stagnant, lesser, boring. The Fae think they have the upper hand, all of the power and shifting dynamics contained within their Fae circles, so the idea of humans being devious and scheming is mostly a laugh, and always an entertaining mind game. Those darn Fae, in exploiting the very potential of the humans they look down upon, are actually victims of their own hubris.
Black’s book is dark and disturbing and fraught with court intrigue and human fears. I was frankly inspired by her writing, and with the character of Jude. Sometimes, honestly, it feels better to get angry. It’s fuel. It can be the opposite of complacency. If you’re going through hell, keep going, and burn it all down behind you. Of course, Jude’s story is also a cautionary tale. The Wicked King is going to detail all the ways in which her actions have consequences. But I’m excited for that, and excited to see what more this little mayfly life can accomplish.
This is absurd. This is awful. This isn’t how people show loyalty. This is epic, epic bullshit.”
Final Thoughts //
If you love dark and twisty fantasy stories with complicated AF characters, I highly recommend this book. Although the central romantic relationship left something to be desired for myself personally, I’m invested enough to want to see where it goes in the sequel. I also am eager to read earlier works by Black, because I know some of her characters made cameos in this one. I love how fully realized and, well, big, Black’s Fae world is. There’s a lot to explore and unpack and compare to our own world, shadows of each other that sometimes overlap. My greatest takeaway from this book: humanity is awesome and the Fae (the status quo) should be watching their backs. I’m a #judestan4lyfe and I’m ready for more.