The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
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.
Katie Review: At the end, I didn’t care about any of the characters. Yes, I found it intriguing following along Jude’s strategy with her and outthinking Murdoc – but I felt that was all I was along for the ride for. I didn’t care if she bested Murdoc, I didn’t even care if she killed her sister. Although some of these characters have good sides, you rarely see them – there are glimpses in Vivi and even in Orania. But Jude prides herself on the ability to hide that side of her (kindness + fear) and become as ruthless as any faerie.
Jill Review: I quite enjoyed that Jude started to own who she was, and what she was good at (even if they're not the best qualities). I did care that she could best Murdoc, the General, I'm sure she won't so easily again, but I liked that she was able to take what she'd been taught and use it to her advantage. I'll agree with Katie in that her moral compass is quite her own, this is not the story of the righteous heroine fighting for justice.
Jude walks a very fine line between spiraling down into darkness and keeping true (to her, at least) her own moral compass. I think the difference between Jude and earlier characters, like Xifeng, is that she always believes she is making the best choice. And in the end, she ends up in a situation she did not want to be in and hadn’t originally planned, but she kept true to her main goal. And I think that is her redeeming quality.
Can we talk about this family dynamic? I loved it. It was awesome. Murdoc murders Jude’s parents, then takes Jude, her twin sister and elder sister (who is Murdoc’s child) to live with him and his new faerie wife and child. They have happy meals at the dinnertable discussing bloodshed and strategy, Orania is awkward and not kind to the girls, but never cruel, and Oak is a typical younger sibling (except for the ear biting, I hope that is just a faerie thing). You see Jude argue and confide in her sisters, push them away and reach out to them for help. She even briefly touches on living in the shadow expectations of her elder sister aka must Jude always be proving her plan to Vivi just because she’s younger? In short, I think the family dynamics was the best part of the whole book.
Romantic subplot? Meh, if you reaaaally stretch it’s kinda sorta there… almost. No.
Jill review: uhhhh I think it will get better in the next book...its a long con subplot.
This was my other favorite part of the book. Black writes such great descriptions of the faerie world. She matter of factly describes each party and creature and decoration as it is, with made up words and her imagination, without stopping and over-explaining every little thing. She just keeps describing, assuming that you know or will catch on, and the narrative sweeps you up into their world. A main factor of the plan is that Jude (and her twin) don’t have any magic of their own in this magical world, and that makes them powerless. While her twin sister is content to fall in love and protect herself through marriage with one of the faerie, Jude imagines a more bold existence for herself. Her desire for power drives her schemes and actions throughout the story, and even as her decisions become higher stakes and could be considered evil, she can’t stop herself.
Jill Review: what she said.