My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am relatively new to this genre of books, having only previously read Sarah J Maas’ ACOTAR series, but the hype around The Cruel Prince and the description of Holly Black as “Queen of the Faerie stories” made it impossible for me to resist trying this. To add to my desperation to get my hands on it it seeemed like I had to travel the breadth of the South coast to find a bookshop that still had it in stock. Once I did find a copy I was powerless to resist getting stuck in right away when I possibly should have tackled one of my many Netgalley ARCs…
Guilt inducing TBR list aside, I’m so glad I did pick this up straight away. Holly Black’s writing is the perfect blend of fantasy and real world. In spite of the magical setting, you never forget that Jude is first and foremost a mortal and that lends a kind of relatability to her as a character.. It can be hard to relate to the magical world of the Folk but it’s easy to empathise with Jude and imagine the difficulties she has had to overcome as a imperfect mortal living in a perfect Faerie world.
I know that a lot of people have struggled with the romantic aspects of this book and the uncomfortable parallels with domestic violence that one might be able to draw. However, I don’t think I would have considered this had I not read other people’s reviews. I think in mythology it’s well known that the Folk are not particularly nice and love to toy with mortals, so to some degree the games of cat and mouse in this book are redolent of the genre. Jude as a character is also guilty of acting in the same way, replicating the Faeries behaviour, and is more than capable of giving as good as she gets which, for me, makes this aspect of the book more acceptable. Also, the book is called The Cruel Prince so… yeah, expect a cruel prince.
The romance in this book is probably only 5% of the plot. The rest of the 95% is very much about power grabbing, Jude kicking ass, elaborate balls, family arguments and the difficulties of navigating the Faerie realm as a mortal. It’s a fantastic bit of escapism with just enough inclusion of things from our world which are familiar to make it seem like just maybe all this could be real.
I can’t speak for whether this book is special within it’s genre, but I can say that it was enjoyable enough that I went out to seek more of Holly Black’s books before I had even finished this one. I will be eagerly awaiting the second and third installments of this series.