Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Published by Hot Key Books, Allen and Unwin on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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.
The more I think about The Cruel Prince, the more I love it. Despite being a fae book with political intrigue and morally grey characters, I found it so relatable. It captured so many emotions and themes, some that hit really close to home. Here’s some reasons why I loved it:
1. Jude is one badass anti-hero
As a human who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the faerie folk, who is viewed as ‘lesser’ because of her lack of powers and heritage, Jude is already off to a rough start. She doesn’t fit in with her peers and the other faerie folk, she doesn’t have the same abilities that they do, and is treated as an inferior plaything by the rest of the fae. Not only does she need to learn to fit in with the fae and their endless games, but she wants to be viewed as their equal.
Some people would let the bullying get to them, but Jude uses the fear, ridicule and cruel treatment from the fae as motivation to not only defend herself against them, but to best them one day as well. You might be wondering how a human could even think of achieving this, but Jude is incredibly cunning, resourceful, and kind of ruthless herself as well. It’s pretty incredible to see Jude’s story unfolding down to its brutal, bloody gloriousness at the end.
2. Terrifying faerie folk
Most books about faeries often romanticise them, but in The Cruel Prince, they’re incredibly dangerous. Imagine how scary it would be to be completely at the mercy of the fae surrounding you, who could enchant you to do their bidding at every turn. While they are glamourous, beautiful creatures who enjoy dancing and drinking, the magic and power that they possess could pretty much enslave a human. From Jude’s stepfather Madoc, to the terrible Prince Cardan in an abusive living situation, to the royal Prince Dain who takes Jude under his wing, each and every one of these characters cannot be trusted at face value. There’s never knowing who they are, and what they want, and that makes them incredibly treacherous. The Cruel Prince captures how terrifying it could be living amongst them, as an inferior human.
3. Morally grey characters
Every character in The Cruel Prince felt multi-dimensional, with their own fears, motivations and goals. While it’s obvious what Jude wants to achieve as she integrates herself into the political intrigue of the fae, constantly leveraging her own position, it’s the other characters that we can’t predict.
I thought Jude’s stepfather Madoc presented an interesting conflict, a fae who is renowned for his ruthless, bloody reputation. He’s murdered her parents, but he’s also chosen to take her and her sisters under his wing, because they didn’t have anyone else. While it’s clear that Jude doesn’t think too highly of him, often making excuses for his behaviour like that’s just the way he is, he can’t help himself, his motivations were never clear cut. And that’s what made him even more fascinating.
4. Political intrigue
There’s even more treachery and backstabbing in the fae courts in the struggle to become one of the monarchs of the Faerieland. I loved reading about the different courts and how each ruler had their own machinations into the faerie court. The fae are incredibly unpredictable which lead to many twists and turns in the story which I didn’t see coming.
5. Romance doesn’t take over the story
I know people are divided about the romance in the book, but I was personally living for the hate to love romance and all the feisty scenes between the two leads. What I was really fond of, was how the romance didn’t take over the story. It just fuelled the fire for Jude to best the fae further.
I know it’s only the start of 2018, but The Cruel Prince is already one of my favourite books of the year. Although it’s a faerie fantasy, it strangely parallels my own life: moving to a new place, being inferior to everyone, trying to fit in, standing up to bullies and dedicating everything you have to besting them. The Cruel Prince is a twisty, complex and incredibly empowering book that reflects today’s social constructs.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me this review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Cruel Prince is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99.