Monday, February 19, 2018

Book Review: "The Cruel Prince" by Holly Black

So after reading a few rather dark and emotionally heavy books, I thought I could use something a little "lighter." I decided to explore the fantasy genre a bit, which is something I don't do often enough. I had heard quite a bit about Holly Black's latest book, The Cruel Prince, so I decided to give it a try.

This was an absolutely excellent, creative book, but make no mistake—it definitely wasn't a "light" read! However, I was hooked from start to finish, so it didn't matter one bit. What a fantastic story!

It seemed like any other Sunday afternoon. Seven-year-old twin sisters Jude and Taryn are lazing about, while their older sister Vivienne watched television absentmindedly. There is a knock at the door, and a tall, mysterious man stands on the doorstep, a man who makes their mother turn pale. Before the girls even realize what is happening, their parents are murdered and the man has stolen them away to live with him in the High Court of Faerie.

Ten years later, Jude and Taryn have done their best to fit in, but they are constantly reminded they are different from the fey who live in Faerie, not just because the girls are mortal and the others are not. Taryn wants to become fully acclimated, live the life that she is expected to, but Jude wants more. She wants to be known for her strength, her intelligence, her bravery. She doesn't want to be "less than," doesn't want to blend into the background.

"I don't desire to do as well in the tournament as one of the fey. I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal. In my heart, I yearn to best them."

Jude's refusal to back down, to kowtow to those who tell her she should be subservient. This earns her the condemnation and hatred of several young fey, most especially Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the High King—and perhaps the cruelest son. He and his friends delight in their torment of Jude, threatening her with and inflicting physical and emotional violence upon her, leading her to make impetuous decisions which strain her relationship with Taryn.

"Faeries make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelties. Twisted words, pranks, omissions, 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."

Jude is able to secure herself a key position within the Court, and she hopes it will lead to greater things. She realizes she is capable of deception, treachery, bravery, and bloodshed, and none of those things really bother her. But she's utterly unprepared to become embroiled in the middle of a bloody civil war for the crown, and she is shocked to learn how her family is involved in some of the betrayal as well.

She has to act quickly in order to figure out how to save herself and those she cares about from certain violence and possible danger. This will require the most courage and intelligence she has ever had to demonstrate, and it also means she must once again tangle with Prince Cardan. But in order to make sure her family and Faerie itself are safe, she realizes some sacrifices must be made.

I rarely read books in this genre, and now I'm not sure why. I found this absolutely compelling, mesmerizing even, as Black reeled me into this incredible world she created. Her imagery is tremendously vivid, but this is definitely a book I'd love to see played out on screen, just to see how all of the characters and the kingdom around them look. Black masterfully weaved suspense, intrigue, emotions, violence, and even a little romance to fantastic effect.

Not being familiar with the fantasy genre, particularly the world of the fey, Black used a lot of terminology to refer to the different creatures that I wasn't familiar with, but that's what dictionaries and Google are for! There were times when the large cast of characters became a little confusing, as I wasn't sure which character was which, but that forced me to slow down a little bit and savor Black's storytelling.

This is definitely not a book for everyone (I can hear some of you saying, "Not for me" as you read this review), but if you've ever thought about reading a book like this, I'd encourage you to pick The Cruel Prince up. It's really an unforgettable experience and a cool story the likes of which I've not heard for some time. I'm a fan of Black's work now, that's for certain!

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