Mini-Reviews: The Wicked King & A Duke by DefaultThe Wicked King by Holly Black
Series: Folk of the Air #2
on January 8, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Received from publisher

The enchanting and bloodthirsty sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince.
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

This review is spoiler-free for the first and second books in the series.

It’s been ages since I read The Cruel Prince, so I expected that it would take me a while to get back into the rhythm of this world. Not so – Holly Black quickly and subtly recaps the events of the series opener and in no time at all, I was swept up by the scheming, backstabbing, and well…actual stabbing that comprises the world of the Fae.

After the events of the first book, Jude’s circumstances have changed drastically: she’s now one of the most powerful players in all of Faerie. Though few are aware of just how much power she holds, many of the Folk are puzzled, suspicious, and pissed off by the meteoric rise of a mortal girl. Jude, for her part, realizes that she has a huge test ahead of her. She may be brilliant, driven, and ruthless, but she’s also inexperienced. That inexperience brings her insecurities to the forefront, and I feel like we got to know Jude in a much deeper way because of it. 

The Wicked King dives deeply into Jude’s fraught relationships, with her adoptive father Madoc and the mercurial and infuriating Fey royal, Cardan, taking center stage. Although for different reasons, Jude’s relationships with the men in her life have come to a similarly tense state. Thanks to their different political aims, she’s at odds with Madoc and Jude and Cardan have always hated each other. That very fine line between love and hate is blurring, and it may bring her closer to people – or it may be her undoing. 

Try though she might, Jude can’t control everything – or everyone – around her. Her plans seem to fail as often as they succeed, and I really appreciate that she requires the help of more seasoned schemers to pull some of them off. It adds some realism when protagonists are fallible, and it keeps the plot compelling and unpredictable since we never quite know how things are going to shake out. And holy hell is it ever unpredictable! My jaw was practically on the floor by the end. I can’t wait to see how Black wraps things up in the finale.

Mini-Reviews: The Wicked King & A Duke by DefaultA Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
Series: Reluctant Royals #2
Published by HarperCollins on July 31, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Received from publisher

A NPR Best Books of 2018

A Bookish's Favorite Books of 2018

A Bookpage Best Romances of 2018

Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way…

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.

Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.  

Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?

Alyssa Cole is one of my favourite romance authors. Whether the setting is historical or contemporary, I can trust her to deliver complex characters, great dialogue, and love stories that tug at my heartstrings. A Duke by Default has all that and more.

In the first book in this series, we saw the fallout from Portia’s struggles with alcoholism. She made a commitment to getting sober, the first step on her journey towards the life she wants. Now that she’s knocked that first step off the list, Portia’s keen to make other big changes. It’s time for self-discovery, realizing her dreams, and taking chances. Next stop? Scotland.

Tavish is a gruff swordsmith running a struggling armoury in Scotland. He doesn’t necessarily want an apprentice, but there’s are trying times. Little did he know how much Portia will be trying his patience – and his self-control. Tavish makes a terrible first impression on Portia (and, frankly, on me) by being rude and making all kinds of assumptions about her, but he quickly sees the error of his ways and delivers some solid apologies. Soon Tavish is gaga over Portia, eager to show her that a stoic and grumpy kind of guy can be a catch, too.

What happens when a big-hearted and whip smart reformed party-girl meets a closed-off and grumpy silver fox? That’s right, sparks fly. The chemistry between these two was so great, and I had so much fun following their push-and-pull. By romance novel standards, these two take their time to get on the same page and become a couple, but it’s well worth the wait. I really enjoyed how Portia prioritized her self-discovery and self-actualization over romance, even after she falls for Tavish. Like every great love interest, Tavish doesn’t try to undermine her goals or act pushy: instead he focuses on bettering himself.

Honestly, I’d recommend this even to people who haven’t read the first book in the series. That’s how great it is!