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:


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.

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