Goodreads Summary: 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.
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
It’s not easy to be a human in a faerieland, a place full of beautiful and cruel immortals who see you as a disgusting being who will soon be dead. For some this might lead to keeping your head down and fading into the shadows, but for Jude, it means fighting to be taken seriously, to fit in, to be better than them.
Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and her older sister Vivi, were just kids when their parents were murdered and they were brought to faerie to live with Vivi’s biological father, a vicious faerie named Madoc. As a result, Vivi does everything she possible can to annoy Madoc, constantly going to the mortal world, Taryn tries her best to appease the faeries and fit her place, and Jude tries her best to be better than them, becoming more ruthless than one would think possible and playing a dangerous game of politics, and soon, more.
In the beginning of the story, Jude and Taryn go to lessons with the youngest cruel prince, Prince Cardan, who seems to delight in high school like bullying of Jude and her sister, doing terrible and cruel things to anyone who might cross him. But the book gets far darker quickly, as it is clear that people are ready cheat, deceive, and murder for power, and Jude gets swept right into the middle of it.
Jude is not a perfect character. She’s dark, and willing to be completely ruthless to get what she wants. There were some parts where I felt like she was going full on antagonist, and was motivated by the wrong things. However, I loved how powerful and strong she could be, all while still caring about her sisters.
I’m pretty sure The Cruel Prince of the title refers to Prince Cardan, although really, I think that he was the least cruel of the three princes. In the beginning of the book he seems to fit the archetype of an arrogant jock, but it becomes clear that he’s more complex that that, and I found myself loving him by the end of the story.
All of the supporting characters were really complex as well. My personal favorite was Vivi, Jude’s faerie sister who cares fiercely about her family. Then there’s Taryn, who at first appears to be a passive nobody, but harbors deep secrets. Madoc, too ends up being far more than he seems. Most of the characters are.
The romance in this book was a lot less than I expected it to be. When it was there, it almost felt out of place and extra; I really wanted there to be more, but since there was so little, it almost felt tacked on and took away from the main plot. This book was definitely much, much darker than a fluffy romance.
There wasn’t one large plot twist in this book; rather, it seemed like the entire last third of the book was one plot twist after another after another, and I guessed NONE of them! I absolutely LOVED the end of this book, and was kept completely on my toes; even when I thought I knew what was happening, I didn’t.
I love the complex faerie world. The faerie politics, and their ruthlessness, were incredibly well done. I loved reading about all the different courts and circles. It is clear that Black knows her stuff on faerie mythology. Furthermore, I was really happy to see Kaye and Roiben, as well as Ben and Severin from Holly Black’s other faerie books.
I think The Cruel Prince might be the darkest of all of Holly Black’s books that I’ve read. The fey here are no happy fairies; the book is full of dark plots, deception, and murder. As someone fascinated with the darker aspects of faeries and fantasy, I loved this.
4.5 out of 5 thorny black stars.
You can also read my review on Goodreads.