Holly Black comes to the blog today with the first in a YA Fantasy series, The Folk of the Air. Narrated by Caitlin Kelly, this story is dark, twisty and often beautiful, with plenty to recommend it to readers who are intrigued by court politics and intrigues. Please read on for my review of
The Cruel Prince
As a child I wasn’t fascinated with the idea of fairies: many of the stories shared with me showed them as rather spiteful creatures, full of mischief but with a mean streak. Few authors I’ve read actually take that opinion and run with it, and Holly Black ran wild with the fae in this one; the court of Henry VIII would have been shocked at their behavior! Jude and Taryn are twins, and with their elder sister Viv have been whisked off to Fairie after the massacre of their parents at the hands of Viv’s father Madoc, a general of Fairie. Viv is his daughter, and despite his acts, he sees Jude and Taryn as his responsibility – ostensibly his remaining feelings for their mother stirs him into action. The three are very different in their reaction: Viv hates him and Fairie with the heat of a million suns, Taryn and Jude have come to see him as a protector and father-like figure.
They are living in the midst of Fairie, alongside the royal children, accepted but not, with each group forming their own cliques, learning the ins and outs of court politics, developing their own networks of informants and spies. Unlike her sister Viv or Taryn, Jude loves being in Fairy and wants to become a knight – a position of power that will earn her some freedom and respect. That is important, as the sisters aren’t seen as ‘belonging’ and the put downs and cuts are constant – these really bother Jude. And then, we have the Geoffry-like prince Cardan. Cardan is the youngest prince: a bully, mean-spirited and determined to make life difficult for anyone he can pick on. Jude has taken his abuse – repeatedly, swallowing down the insults and building a hatred for Cardan that sees no end. But, she hasn’t reacted – not really, she’s not sure of just what her powers could do, and then she decides that enough is enough, and stops throttling her emotions.
As Jude accepts her dark side: one far darker than even she expected, other doors open and she is recruited by the chosen prince, Dain, and soon she discovers that much is hidden beneath the surface: secrets lead to more secrets, and each one seems to have more depth and possible implications than anyone would ever have thought possible. With an upcoming coronation and plenty of secrets unraveling and danger increasing, Jude is learning to maneuver as she tries to watch out for herself and her sisters. But when Taryn shares a secret, but refuses to say more – the danger, and stakes increase.
Black has developed these characters completely: good and bad, in ways that I’ve not seen in YA fiction. She doesn’t steer away from uncomfortable or impolite feelings, actions or even impulses, and seems to allow them each to develop and embrace traits and pathways that will allow them to be their fully realized selves. With lovely and lush descriptions of place and things, the land of Fairie is easy to visualize and feel, drawing you into this very atmospheric read.
Narration for this story is provided by Caitlin Kelly, and she manages to present the words, and the underlying emotion with precision: you understand Viv’s anger, Jude’s frustrations and even Taryn’s secrecy in a visceral way, even before the issue or action is complete. This really is Jude’s story, and every moment of her uncertainty, and her joy in discovering her own power, and wielding that power for revenge against Cardan or in her investigations comes with a touch of ‘ooh’ for listeners – we feel Jude becoming more confident and capable as she demonstrates it in actions through the text. Dark, occasionally disturbing and full of many moments that people, in their efforts to be polite never let out for others to see: the story is transportative and engaging – keeping you on the edge of your seat until the last words are read.
And OH – what last words – precise, beautiful and immersive with details and layers that have you desperate for the next part of the story!
Stars: Overall 5 Narration 5 Story 5
Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Also in this series: The Wicked King
Genre: Contemporary Teen Fantasy, Contemporary YA Fantasy, Dark-theme, Fairies
Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Published by: Hachette Audio, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published on: 2 January, 2018
Source: Hachette Audio
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 36 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.