The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

34948440Of 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.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
NetGalley eARC 384 Bonnier Zaffre SFF / Teen+YA January 2nd, 2018

This is one of those HYPE books… everywhere I look online, readers are gushing, swooning, fanning themselves and utterly speechless about how deliciously dark and goooood The Cruel Prince is- what mysterious book is it that makes Twitter go into meltdown? 🙂 I wanted to find out and allowed myself to be swept in by the crowds…. (and here’s the but)… but, personally, I don’t feel I received what the early uber-positive reviews advertised. Sure, I seem to be in the minority… In fact,  as I type the millionth version of this review [07/01/2018 @ 10:06 GMT], I sit somewhere among the 8% of 3* reviews… It would be 2* if not for the ending which really managed to capture me:

TCP

As a full disclosure, I’ve binged on a fae series before – Chaos by Claire Farrell – and even though they are naturally different in terms of plot, with different levels of cruelty, I can’t help but compare. Because when the comparison is there, you can contemplate the what did/didn’t work and of course one is going to be somewhat better than the other. Fact of life. Matter of tastes. Beauty, eye, beholder- remember that!

This is going to be a completely and utterly subjective review without ANY summary of the book… 

The Cruel Prince failed to capture me with its characters and settings. The fae world with all the characters in it is an exciting concept. Pixies, goblins, odd-looking creatures and the life/culture they lead is certainly a lot more colourful than that of the human world. In The Cruel Prince, we come across a lot of different ‘creatures’ alongside the fey folk and in addition to leading a normal way of life (school, war councils, society) the fey parties are something I wouldn’t mind an invitation to. However! Any descriptions of characters, places and parties in this book didn’t capture me as I found them delivered in a slightly ‘matter of fact manner’. It was like – oh, here’s someone new, this is what they look like, now let’s quickly move on. I wanted more… Multiple times, introducing a new Character X in x/y/z situation was followed by a descriptive list of appearances. OK, it’s cool to know if someone has green/blue skin and/or pink/blue eyes and/or horns/funky hairdo- we need those things as readers to form a visual in our mind’s eye. But all of the descriptions of appearances dissolved immediately and then blurred into a cocktail of every other appearance description throughout the book. I’m not sure if I am finding the right words… My main point is, having finished the book and all the characters I remember from it by name and role, I couldn’t tell you who looked like what. It’s as if they weren’t fully formed… For all I know, Prince Cardan could have had horns, Locke could have been blue-skinned and Oak could have had hooves. (Did I get that right, anyone?) I did not skip a single line in this book, so I know I couldn’t have missed anything intentionally.

Frankly, I actually thought I was reading a different book to everyone else who seemed to love it so.

Faeries make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelties. Twisted words, pranks, ommissions, riddles, scandals, not to mention their revenges upon one another for ancient, half-remembered slights. Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious. 

If not for the brilliant last 25% ending the book, I would seriously have no doubt my ARC copy was different to the one everyone else was reading prior to the publication. The ending of the book truly saved this whole venture for me- it was action packed, full of intrigue and interesting turns of events. And overall, I liked the plot… it’s solid and enjoyable and really gives the opportunity for different characters to act according to their role. The story arc flows nicely and without delays- all really good things to point out! I think the steady flow and nice pace was one of the strong points for me with this book.

Addressing the cruelty aspect, I admire that Black did a few ‘saves’- but at what cost? Is it truly OK to be downright, unexcusably mean, even IF you are a faerie? And, why would a mortal want to be one of them if all they do is evil crap? Especially when the evil crap is aimed at the mortal themselves?  It’s messing with my head. Guys, I don’t know what to tell you. You know I read cruelty and odd stuff sometimes, but something about this book rubbed me the wrong way.

One of the thoughts crossing my mind was that all the bullying and meanness reminded me of those ‘high school mean/popular boy/girl’ books, except this time it’s dressed up in magical sparkle. But, life, real or fictional, is a non-stop pissing contest anyway and in The Cruel Prince, it sure was good to see the underdog go all alfa, eventually. (I think I am trying to convince myself that I actually like the book more than I did…) For the love of Beer Gods, I LOVED Jorg in The Broken Empire trilogy and he was a freaking Antichrist… so, why wasn’t I able to get behind them tricksy fae bastards in The Cruel Prince?

hang on… a thought is forming…

Because I can stand for a character who will stay true to themselves, to the concept of cruelty throughout the good and bad, life and death, love and hate. Consistency! Dress it up in cowardly deceit and excuse it away with ‘entitlement’ rather than a waterproof reason and it all falls apart in my eyes like a house of cards. Do you not agree that even villains deserve respect when they deliver their blows with conviction? Because with conviction, at least there is meaning to it all, no matter how warped or evil. Take away conviction and all you get left with is an unreliable scumbag…

Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It’s disgusting, and I can’t stop.

Do I even need to comment? Oh, wait, yes I do. So, in short- a faery guy apparently has feelings for a mortal. And the ‘poor guy’ is struggling because well, he’s a faery and she’s mortal so… it’s disgusting! Naturally. And yet… He LIKES the mortal so MUCH he actually bullies her. Because, what else would a guy in love do? Not only that, but he THINKS about her ALL THE TIME despite the mortal being a mortal in a decaying body (gasp!) and god forbid in a sweating/menstruating one* (double-gasp)!

And here’s speculation because I don’t actually know how the whole ‘romance’ is going to turn out yet, but, oh, it will make for an absolute banger of a character development for the fae guy. Imagine, they despise the mortal but end up admitting/accepting the feelings with flourish in due course. Except- it will be somewhat of a deep bucket to crawl out from because with all the hurt and bad done and said- can there ever be a healthy relationship? Or as some say- a ship to go down with? Because I am all sorts of NOPE here. 

*Which takes me to another niggle…

… with all the empowerment movement among the female community to not be ashamed of their bodies, the book being aimed at Young Adults, you’d think something as natural as a monthly period would not be linked with words like ’embarrassing’. Our main character, Jude, visits the human world and grabs a box of tampons. This is the first person information/thought trail I got (subject to have changed in finished copy, I guess.. I hope?):

I know what you’re wondering. No, they don’t bleed once a month; yes, they do bleed. Annually. Sometimes less frequently than that. Yes, they have solutions- padding, mostly- and yes, those solutions suck. Yes, everything about it is embarrassing. 

Fookin’ really? I went over and over and over this passage to see if I had misunderstood, misread, mistaken. What could she possibly mean? What is embarrassing? Why? I know this is Jude’s character and probably half the population of young girls can relate but they shouldn’t, is what I’m saying.

So, as you can see, a couple of things just did not compute with me.

Sometimes book ideas start with one question… And I was trying to think what would be that one seedling of an idea that spurred The Cruel Prince into life. And the answer to that, I do not- cannot- possibly know. I think it all starts and ends with Jude. The mortal girl in a fae world. Her character development throughout the book is most evident– from essentially the bullied to wanting to be and blend into the bullies so what does that make her? The bloodshed and power are what she’s after, what the faes have- will she be corrupted by her newfound strengths, is yet to be seen. Despite having grown up in the High Court of Faerie, she has her moments of ‘selective blindness’ about what she can expect from the faeries. At one stage, Jude is practically shown a hand of cards from the very beginning, she still walks headfirst into an ‘unfortunate situation’ like a freaking rookie. Yes, love and wanting to be wanted makes us all blind and prone to mistakes but what kind of a message does it deliver? That you can never trust your love interest? Am I freaking overthinking this?

Yes. Yes, I am. Maybe, maybe not. I am letting small details completely annoy me- but this is my reading party and I cry if I want to. And big, whole pictures are made with small, fitting parts.

If you are a diehard fan then I am sure you want to push me into a river and feed me faery food so you could make me do all sorts of embarrassing things in front of a sniggering crowd… You have your imagination, feel free to use it. I know once my ears start burning… Consider it message received 😉

So, if you read this book and loved it- good! Sincerely- I am happy for you. I think I am quite obviously the wrong audience for this book and hereby declare the end of this very subjective review.

The Cruel Prince on Goodreads ¦ Amazon UK ¦ USA

66 comments

  1. I’m never one to jump aboard a hype train, no matter if it’s a movie, a novel or whatever. I usually form my opinion, and on only very rare occasions I found the hype to be real. Having not read this, I can’t really say if the hype is justified or not, but based on your review and the things you adress (especially for the character descriptions) I’m thinking your review sounds definitely more real and honest 😀. Great post! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! 🙂
      Yes, the hype is a fickle beast… I’ve experienced hype that really didn’t deliver and hype that has been completely justified… I guess it’s the nature of subject matter anyway 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I held off requesting this because I’ve not been overly enamoured with what I’ve read of Holly Black’s in the past. Good but not great, firm 3* books, but nothing to make me want to leap on another one and honestly all the hype is a little off-putting!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah! I get ya, this was my first Black book but going by what I’ve read in TCP- if all her books are similar, then it’ll probably be my first and last Black book, unfortunately…
      Yes, the hype.. I was really intrigued by the promise of dark&twisted. I love dark&twisted but this one went completely off the mark.

      Like

        • Bloody good point… these two can’t possible be the same and yet TCP was meaner than some dark adult fantasy i’ve read… I will most certainly approach the YA hype with a lot more precaution from now on! 🙂

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  3. Great review. The points you made make a lot of sense. I haven’t read this story but consistentcy is something I always look for in a story and am so disappointed when it’s not there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nel!
      Quite honestly, I was nervous about publishing this review after seeing how much grief some reviewers get for their reviews for hype books but then though- meh, come at me! 😀
      I truly was expecting something a lot more lyrical, and then dark&twisted was just truly not to my taste… win some, lose some, I guess! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I freakin’ love this review Liis!

    The synopsis of this sounds so good! But poor character development, and inconsistent actions really bug me. I have 0 patience for school playground drama so I could see myself getting really irritated at that. Add all this to the whole ‘women should be embarrassed for having periods’ aspect and I am completely noping on this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, CJ! 🙂 I quite struggled with the review and the book to be honest… the promise of dark and twisted left me wanting and those niggles really got my hackles up.. I’m usually the type of person to not take anything too seriously in fiction but seems this book is an exception!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you… yes! Hype is such a risky business… but I guess it’ll be a 50/50 thing, anyway and always… it will either work or not… but, I’ll be more cautious in the future myself 🙂

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  5. Eugh, I was shaking my head as I was reading this review. Kudos to you for making it to the ending! I’m glad it paid off somewhat 😛 I hate, hate, HATE the I’m-bullying-you-because-I-secretly-love-you trope. Just no! It’s such a dangerous idea to put in people’s heads. Bullying is never, ever okay.
    Also, the period thing is ridiculous. Again, another dangerous idea to put in people’s heads…that a completely normal bodily function is somehow, well, abnormal?
    I too very often fail to get aboard the hype train and find myself wondering if there’s an issue with me when I don’t seem to enjoy a book the way other people too. I’m glad I’m not alone in that 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    • Honestly- with all the love for the bok I thought I was being too critical but I simply couldn’t turn around and sing praises when things were rubbing me the wrong way… and those two points are just all sorts of not good.
      The ending was really good ad about the only thing that saved the book but I highly doubt I will read the sequel…
      Must stay away from hype… at least until a LOT more reviews are in to get a more fully formed idea of the book…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think especially when it’s a genre that you’re very well clued up on it becomes apparent when there are things that just aren’t right about a book.
        I don’t think you were being too critical at all. You were honest and every criticism you had came with good reasoning!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks 🙂 You know when you’re struggling with a review and once you publish it so much more hitting thoughts come into head… there’s always the dit button but… I am just glad to be done with it at this stage… haha… really… going by Claire’s comment on the review about dark&twisted in YA vs same in adult fantasy- it’s a really good point to set expectations but darn it, some of the dark&twisted in adult fantasty has been more mellow and things that happen in TCP I think…
          but anyway- woohooo… nice to see you in the community and I have your book review opened up, ready to be devoured! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • Haha I know that exact feeling! Or when you have a load of thoughts and ideas when you just finish a book and completely forget them when you sit down to write the review 😛
            I haven’t read much YA. but I remember reading one YA trilogy and there was an attempted rape scene! It was so dark and so unexpected, so yeah, definitely agree with you on that. YA can sometimes be way more dark and twisted than its adult fantasy counterpart!
            I’m trying to be good to myself and make more time for me. I’ve found I’ve been letting myself get consumed by uni so I’m going to try and set aside a day each week for a bit of blogging 😀 How are things with you?

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂
      Definitely- if you can skim through a copy or have access to previews at all, then it might help you make up your mind whether to take the plunge or not.
      I hope you enjoy if you do read the book… even if you don’t- well.. at least you’ll know! 🙂

      Like

  6. Ha would never read this novel but your review is very entertaining :-). I never read a novel where periods were mentioned and I’m not saying that it shouldn’t but it’s not like it’s the most interesting thing to read about so I don’t know why the author mentioned it and I certainly don’t know what’s embarrasing about it either… and once a year, I’d be very happy thank you very much (just checked and the author is a woman too so maybe she should have included some other solutions than ‘padding mostly’). Anyway, great review Liis and I’m very happy it had such a good ending so that you didn’t feel it was a waste of time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Inge! Missions accomplished if it was entertaining! 🙂
      Hahahaha, I so agree with you on the bodily functions bit… once a year would be like- a freaking holiday 😀 I think what also made me grimace was the fact that from that snipped it’s like tampons are the only way to go… I don’t know the percentage globally but some women cannot use tampons as they’ve had toxic side effects… so… to shoot down ‘padding’ as a solution was a bit of a low blow… It’s unreal how small details can sometimes ruin the reading experience… ah well!
      Thanks, Inge! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah thank you for this! I have been excited to read this one, but the more hype and rave I see centering it, the more nervous I become. Funny how that works huh? I have learned the hard way. I am sure I will still pick it up to explore on my own, but your insight has given me enough pause to hopefully refrain from setting those expectations too high 😉 Love the review! Always a little harder to go against the “grain” and you did so very well!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed… the hype is a fickle beast 🙂 Absolutely, do read this as I would LOVE to read your thoughts on the book. I was trying to see if any of the blogging gang I follow had reviewed it- some had with good praise but others hadn’t yet… so I am eagerly awaiting for some further feedback from bloggers I have come to know and respect! 🙂 Who knows… maybe I was being too anal and your view of things will make me see things from a different angle… Most interested, indeed! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve seen pretty much nothing but glowing reviews on this, so I appreciate seeing one a little less glowing – though I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it more. I end up disagreeing with hyped books about 99% of the time, so I’ve been kind of hesitant on this one. Great review!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m sorry to hear this didn’t live up to the hype to you! I really liked Holly Black’s Coldest Girl in Coldtown, so I’m looking forward to giving this one a try. Honestly it’s the cruelty aspect that has me most interested, I think, because I tire of reading about perfect, always nice/understanding characters. I can understand why you had some issues though, from the quotes and things you explained. I will just have to read it for myself and see what I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by and apologies for the delayed reply 🙂
      I get you about ‘perfect characters’- I mostly read about characters that aren’t perfect at all so thought this was going to fit like a fist in the eye but… with the comparison moment there in terms of cruelty and some other fey stories, this didn’t fit the bill at all… I have to check out your blog now to see if you have read/reviewed already.. I might have even read your review… yikes…

      Like

  10. Great review! Basically, I was already thinking The Cruel Prince probably wouldn’t be for me, and you have just confirmed it to me this would probably end up on the unpopular opinion review pile if I do decide to pick it up. So thanks for saving me the time I guess. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it’s fair enough that you weren’t blown away by this- I’m seeing a lot of hype for this and to be honest I’m kinda ignoring it cos I like the author and want to read her books anyway (I’ve rated all her books around 4*, so I’m expecting it to be about the same, cos I tend to just judge authors I already know on my other ratings, if that makes sense) Anyway, sorry for rambling! It’s a shame it didn’t capture you with the characters and setting. hahaha wow that line… just wow. Gotta admit, I laughed- cos that’s not exactly romantic, it’s a little odd honestly. That whole period quote was weird too tbh. I just don’t know why something like that needed to be included- because (in my opinion) it feels like overshare, but for people who want to see stuff like that in books it’s not positive like you said- so it’s lose lose. To be honest, I get why you had so many niggling issues here, cos I think books you feel out of the loop with or are middle of the road are so easy to nitpick 😉 or maybe that’s just me 😉 . Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes- the way you judge makes perfect sense… when you’re used to someone’s style and know what you’ll get from them, it definitely makes a difference 🙂
      Never be sorry for rambling… 🙂 I love it when you ramble 😀
      I admit that with this one I definitely allowed myself to be swept away with the hype and the praise… so in my head I was expecting to be blown away like with Nevernight or Lawrence books… you know, the unreal how good writing, the deep stuff, the everything is so whooaaa… but it didn;t happen and I can probably only blame myself 😀 but I do look forward to the time once the hype dies down and you’ll read it just to get your thoughts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes definitely!! hehe thanks! 😉
        Ah I completely get that!! I can understand why you got swept up (it literally happens all the time for me!!) I think I’ve enjoyed her books, but wouldn’t put it on that level tbh. Absolutely- I definitely plan to read it at some point 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Absolutely brilliant review, Liz. Love that moment where you had thought forming. Seemed like an epiphany, really hahaha It’s nice to read an honest review from someone who has seen worse characters, i.e. Jorg, and knows what well-done cruelty is like (gosh, that sounds bad). Honesty is really the best policy, and in the end, you explained yourself perfectly. I also liked the bit about character descriptions being matter of factly. I too sometimes run into authors who do it like that and I just end up forgetting all of it and end up making no significant physical distinction between certain characters hahah Again, great review as always, Liz! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m one of those readers who loved this, but I definitely see your points. It didn’t bother me at the time about the lack of physical descriptions, but now that you mentioned it, I also had a hard time visualizing the characters. For me, though, that took a back seat to the parts I really loved. Sorry this didn’t work for you! Have you read Mishell Baker’s series? Another fey story but MUCH different, and really good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by and apologies for the delayed response! 🙂
      I am definitely in the minority with the book and I love seeing people have a great reading experience so I can absolutely understand why the book is loved by many… having read so many other grim stories as well as another fey series I had a bit of a comparison moment… At the end of the day, we can’t all like same books anyway 🙂 I really liked the ending though- that was very very good… and even though I would like to know how this whole thing is going to continue I think I will opt for reviews instead rather than continuing the series…
      Thanks for the recommendation- I must check out Baker’s series! 🙂

      Like

  14. I know I am super late to this comment train, but I don’t like reading reviews before reading the book!

    I LOVED The Cruel Prince! But don’t worry, I don’t want to push you in a river 🙂 I respect your opinion and its awesome that you were able to write an honest review!

    I didn’t think I was going to like the book based on the synopsis, but this is my first time experiencing hype in the blogging world like this, so I was intrigued. I am glad I joined the bandwagon on this one haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 Better late than never and thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! 🙂
      Hahaha, thanks for not pushing me in the river… it’s great to be able to express your thoughts about a book without having to worry about a backlash from fans 🙂
      I am glad you enjoyed the book- it’s always great to discover a hyped book that lives up to expectations! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I have a few blogging buddies who love Holly Black, but they have been honest enough to tell me they think I would not like her writing style, at all, ha ha. And I totally agree with the period thing. YA authors have so much power in their hands to un-sully things like periods, and I too get frustrated when they are seemingly upholding incorrect norms. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I still come across a whole pile of gushing reviews and am left scratching my head.. I really think I read a whole different copy of this book 😀 But, that’s the beauty of readers- we all enjoy and see things from our own specific point of view… although that period things still makes my eye twitch! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  16. “Addressing the cruelty aspect, I admire that Black did a few ‘saves’- but at what cost? Is it truly OK to be downright, unexcusably mean, even IF you are a faerie? ”

    I think, yes! The dark and dangerous has always been seductive, I mean look at Slytherin. I really liked that this book wasn’t afraid to go the bloody, evil route as opposed to characters with obsessive morals that drive me crazy.

    Vee @ http://under-mountain.blogspot.co.uk/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya 🙂 Thanks for your comment… oh yeah, obsessive morals are a drag, I agree… I think in the overall scheme of things, it didn’t make sense to me that Cardan liked Her but was still acting like a total ass… but I take your point about dark and dangerous being seductive. I have enjoyed a fair share of such characteristics in fiction.. I don’t know, something just didn’t click with me in The Cruel Prince, BUT I am glad you enjoyed it 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  17. Haha I really enjoyed your review because I quite frankly felt the same. This book was so half-baked in some aspects, like the descriptions of what these characters looked like. It’s great that an author commits to details, but she never delivered these details in a way that packed a punch or left an impression in my mind. And yeah, I also was verrry miffed by Jude’s “love is blind” misstep as well; it just made her look very incompetent. Yeesh.
    Terrific review! Love your breakdown of this book. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you… I am always very intrigued by reviews for the book and I very rarely come across reviews that mirror my own thoughts… they’re all glowing… then, recently I came across an excerpt of book 2 online and all my fears came true 😀 now, I am in two minds.. I kind of want to read book 2 just to witness the ‘car crash’ but then again I don’t 😀 Will you be reading the sequel?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh man, I feel you…there’s rarely any negative reviews in the book community, so I always feel like the odd one out in my opinions. XD And nah, I don’t think I’ll be reading book 2, at least not anytime soon. Probably I’ll just flip through it at the bookstore and skim the parts I’m curious about, but it won’t be enough for me to rate or review it. :/ Have you decided to read it?

        Like

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