REVIEW: “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black 💭

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

Title: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)
Author: Holly Black
Pages: 370

Release Date: January 2 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.18 (of 75,804 ratings)



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Jude was seven 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.


This review will contain spoilers.
If you’re a fan of TCP, don’t take this review personally. This is my opinion! I fully support your love of this book, as I hope you would support my love for a book you disliked.

If you read my mini disclaimer, you can see what direction this is going to take, so, um, let’s just get into it.

THE INTRODUCTION, a.k.a, The First 50 Pages

Jude and her sisters wept the whole way to Faerieland. 

The beginning of The Cruel Prince has so many unique names and locations, without enough descriptions to keep me current on the whos and whys and wheres. My brain was going, “Wow, Jude wants to be a knight! I love a badass female— Wait a knight for who? The King? Is this the King of Faerieland or like, Elfhame? What are Courts how many Courts are there why do we have Courts what do they do is this King the ruler of all the people in Faerieland or just one Court?”

*brain explodes*

Non-human creatures got little description beyond their species name and one/two trait markers. I can understand if Black assumes readers already know what a goblin is, for example. But each book will have its own version of goblins, and The Cruel Prince is no exception. I’m quickly told about hobs, imps, goblins, grigs, faerie steeds, pixies, boggans, foxkin, and ogres … and I have no idea where they all fit into the the world of the Fae. How ANYTHING fits in, least of all Jude and her sisters. 

(or what anything looks like. in my mind, humans to fae = blurry humanoids with the occasional horns / tails)

At first it seems like an owl, but it’s got hob eyes.
^ And a hob’s eyes look like?

After 50 pages, I decided to re-read everything and try to cobble together a better understanding because the confusion was getting overwhelming. (it kind of worked)


Before I even knew the title of this book I knew that Jude VS Cardan was this epic thing (thanks Twitter). But wow was that underwhelming and almost nonsensical.

Prince Cardan, sixth-born to the High King Eldred, yet still the absolute worst, strides across the floor towards us. 

Cardan is introduced as a wicked, terrible prince who rips off the wings of pixies when they fail to bow in his presence. Except all his interactions with Jude are so meek. He kicks dirt on her food. She retaliates by putting salt in his food. I felt like I was reading a middle school fight. 

Jude’s sudden desire to take on Carden came out of nowhere. She was angry at Madoc for refusing to let her become a knight. Then BAM! “I must go after Carden!” I couldn’t track her decision-making process for this. Especially since … girl, you literally saw him rip the wings of someone for not bowing. 

(WAIT, Sha. What about that scene when Jude consumes the apple? Is that “middle school fighting”? Cardan was a bystander—don’t read this as “innocent” though—in this scene. IMHO, the real cruel person in Cardan’s group is Valerian. Cardan is just spineless and goes along with the terrible things his friends do.)

THE WRITING, a.k.a., Me Saying “Wait, What?”

Sometimes the language used both in Jude’s narration and characters’ speech sounded vaguely old age. Other times, I got the most casual language that just. Didn’t. Fit.

I take a deep breath. If I could ask him for any boon, what would it be? I understand the danger, of course. Once I tell him, he is going to try to strike a bargain, and faerie bargains seldom favour the mortal. 

Like, you’re invulnerable, except to an arrow made of the heartwood of a hawthorn tree, which just so happens to be the exact kind of arrow that your worst enemy prefers. […] Basically, like everything about Faerie, gaeses are awesome, and also they suck. 

This took me out the story several times, and did nothing to help tie together the Faerie universe Black is trying to create. Not only was the prose not cutting it for me (I’m sorry) but I struggled to follow nuances in the plot.

(perhaps a combination of too much happening without enough clear explanation)

Like, how did Jude determine what Madoc was going to do with Oak? She had no clues to prove anything. The minute she figured out who Oak was, she was clued in to every detail of Madoc’s plan. << the reader needs maybe some steps in your thinking Jude!

THE CHARACTERS, yeah, this was a real struggle

I couldn’t truly connect with anyone in this book. Oh, I enjoyed some of the adventures Jude had, for sure. But so many of the characters in this book either A) weren’t fleshed out enough or B) acted contrary to their characterization.

Little did Prince Dain know that my real skill lies in pissing people off. 

Jude is entirely unpredictable. I could never guess when she would lash out at Cardan or bow her head to his comments. When she would embrace Madoc’s substitute parentage or reject his presence. She gave me whiplash on every page. I needed to know WHY she made these decisions, what drove her, more than “I want to be better than the Fae,” because that can’t explain her daily decisions.

(and so many decisions. made no. SENSE.)

Vivi, Madoc’s blood daughter, refuses to acknowledge his claim to her. She skips school, escapes to the mortal world whenever she can, and insults Madoc with snide comments at every opportunity. Yet for some reader she calls him “Dad”?? Yes, it’s a small detail. It still makes no sense to me.

And how Balekin beats Cardan for drinking and whoring around … when Balekin is Prince of the Circle of Grackles, who drink and whore around. I just.

(not that abusers EVER have a logical reason)

CW: suicide, murder, abuse


My main issue with this book is that it comes across like there wasn’t any substance to the events happening. I was continually pulled out out of a story I couldn’t connect to in the first place. 3.5 crowns, which I realize is a high(er) rating after my complaints, but my rating system includes consideration for what I think others will enjoy, not just what I enjoy. And clearly, this book is massively enjoyed.

On the BRIGHT SIDE I loved one quote so much I had to screenshot it and I’m sharing with you now.

“If you hurt me, I wouldn’t cry. I would hurt you back.”


well. did you make it this far?


14 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black 💭

  1. aahh sha!!! why all the spoilers? 😥 i didn’t read it, just the end little recap. that quote is powerful, love it. reminds me of june from legend. sad that you didn’t enjoy but will still try it bc… well i don’t actually have a good reason i trust you + your reviews a lot so like,,, i honestly don’t know what to do??? help meeee please 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i’m soorryy!! spoilers are my book review weakness. if i don’t like a book, i’m like: the people must know all.

      spoiler-free for rhi:
      i didn’t like a lot of things in this book. the narrative voice didn’t suit a high fantasy novel. in fact, for a high fantasy, there lacked a loooot of worldbuilding. i kinda just pictured a forest with humans who had horns, tbh. for a book that has death scenes, and suicide, and talks about regicide, it never felt high stakes. things just … happened. and for as much as everyone is like Cardan + Jude … no.

      I would say read it. It wasn’t painful, it wasn’t boring, it wasn’t problematic. (any of these three and I will strongly recommend against a book) I could see why people liked it, a lot of things i disliked were a matter of opinion, and clearly many many people straight out ADORE this book. so i think u will be fine reading. odds are you will rate five stars and come back and be like, what was sha ON about???

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was actually surprised you ended up giving 3.5 stars after that review haha! Personally I really enjoyed the book, but I loved reading your review haha, I think I was laughing out loud at some parts haha!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was scared you were going to give it like one crown, haha! But 3 crowns isn’t bad! I personally gave this book 3.6 stars, because I *kind of* liked it, but it was okay. I was confused during some parts, and other parts were too slow for me. But! I enjoyed the Wicked King a lot more! So hopefully you’ll like The Wicked King if you decide to read it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I was reading, I kept disliking things (hence my mild rant review). But then I sat back and realized that it was a super easy, and that ending was pretty exciting. I actually didn’t see the plot twist coming, I’m ashamed. I’m still mulling over if I will venture into The Wicked King. I like the concept of Jude in charge, so I may one day!


  4. I had to skim because I still need to read it. I know it’s a little iffy for some and drop-dead amazing for others. From what I did read I can see I’ll be sort of iffy too…but we shall see what truly happens whenever I get around to it.
    I’m sure this is an epic, fantastic amazing review and we shall discuss this further when I get to it!


  5. This was such a good review! I have to agree that it was super offputting when the language switched like that. I was left a bit bewildered?? I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I just found it to be average, but I did enjoy the Wicked King a lot more than I did The Cruel Prince.


  6. Fabulous review! I have to wholly agree with you that so many things about this book was very flimsy at times, including Jude’s motivations. I honestly could not understand why she was doing the things she did sometimes, and “whiplash” is a terrific description of that. I also gave this book 3.5 stars, but daaaang was I tempted to give it 1 or 2 stars at one point!


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