The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk of the Air #1)

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 2, 2018

Source: Purchased

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. View Spoiler »

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Holly Black’s THE CRUEL PRINCE is a thrilling story about the impact of dark, evil deeds on those who can’t protect themselves…and the darkness those deeds breed within them.

Human twin sisters Jude and Taryn Duarte and their half-fae sister Vivienne had everything stolen from them: their parents, their human lives, and their very world. Swept away into Faerie, they’ve lived for ten years in the house of the fae general Madoc, who’s been like a father to them. Though he is distant and self-serving, he loves them in his way. The only problem? Madoc killed their parents.

Forced to live with — and having grown to love — her parents’ killer, Jude has learned that nothing in Faerie is ever simple, especially for a human. Tormented by the cruel Prince Cardan and his set of noble fae, the human twins are under constant threat of ensorcellment and death. While her sister Taryn has chosen to bend like a reed in the face of these indignities, Jude has been forged into steel. And like all great weapons, she hungers for blood. When news spreads that the High King is relinquishing his throne and will choose one of his six heirs to wear the crown in his stead, Jude sees a pathway to revenge and all that she craves: power.

A consistent critique of YA fantasy is the lack of risks for the main characters and the general “dulling down” of the violence that inevitably follows a coup. Let me be clear: those critiques are absolutely notΒ applicable to THE CRUEL PRINCE. Holly Black pulls no punches, and neither does Jude. Every time I thought she wouldn’t go there, she proved me wrong. Jude does terrible things, defying the expectations of both her enemies and those closest to her. She’s truly unpredictable and reckless…and it is delicious.

I love that Black never indicates which sister’s approach is the better one, whether it’s truly wiser to keep your head down, or to stand up and fight. There’s no oversimplified moralizing here, and neither Taryn nor Jude’s strategy is without its strengths or weaknesses. Taryn seeks to gain power and influence by being meek and attracting a powerful protector, while Jude spits in the faces of the fae and struggles to fight their control at every turn. Unsurprisingly, their difficult choices drive a wedge between them, and soon Jude isn’t sure if her sister is someone she should trust. Never knowing who was on Jude’s side — or even if Jude’s side is the “right” one — is just part of the thrill that is THE CRUEL PRINCE.

Of course, familial relationships aren’t the only ones fraught with betrayal and deception: romance is a deadly game in Faerie, and for better or worse, Jude has caught the eye of a member of Prince Cardan’s merry little gang of torturers. Flattered and pleased by the attention though she may be, Jude is who she is, and uses her newfound connections to advance her agenda. But as she becomes more entangled with Prince Cardan and his fellows, Jude can’t help but wonder who’s using who…and if the monsters she knows are preferable to those that have yet to be unmasked.

Brimming with heart-stopping action, courtly and personal intrigues, and characters you love and hate in equal measure, THE CRUEL PRINCE is Holly Black at her finest. The Queen of the Fae is back, y’all.

Have you read THE CRUEL PRINCE? Do you enjoy reading about morally grey characters? Let me know in the comments!


  1. YESSS. So happy you loved this one Danya – I loved how dark this one was and how there weren’t any “good” characters. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT CARDAN? I have soo many feelings about that boy.

    1. CARDAN! HE IS A DISASTER AND HE IS TERRIBLE AND HE IS FRAGILE. I want to slap him right in his face and then protect him. He and Jude are honestly two sides of the same coin and it huuuuuurts 😭πŸ”ͺπŸ’”

      1. I KNOWWWW. I really want him to have a happy ending.

  2. Yes, absolutely loved this! I agree with everything you said. This book has such complex relationships and I loved how deeply developed they are. I cannot WAIT for the next book!

    1. Holly Black really outdid herself here, I think. The relationships between Jude and her family were particularly well developed…I just felt so much for these characters! Dying for book two as well.

  3. I have not had the best of luck with her, but everyone seems to be loving this one and I am curious

    1. I think this is one of the best books she’s ever written, for what it’s worth!

    • Greg Hill

    • 4 years ago

    I’ve been wanting to try Holly Black ever since hearing how she writes great fae stuff. This just confirms for me that I need to read her sooner, rather than later. And I love how unpredictable and vicious Jude sounds. I can only imagine being in a situation like that- kidnapped and raised in an alien world by your parents’ killer- and I can see where she’s want to let loose!

    Great review Danya!

    1. Holly Black is honestly the queen of fae books! All her stuff is good but there’s something extra special about her work when she’s writing about the fae. Jude stole my heart, even when it was really hard to like her. She’s kind of insane and I love it. πŸ˜‚

      Thanks so much, Greg!

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    • 4 years ago

    Oh, so happy to see you loved this one! I enjoyed both The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Darkest Part of the Forest. Should give this one a try as well

    1. If you liked Coldtown and Darkest Part, then you *need* this in your life Lisa! The Cruel Prince is some of her best work, in my opinion.

  4. Looks like I’ll have to add this to my to-read list! Nothing beats a solid cast of morally-grey characters IMO.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Morally grey characters, when done right, make for such interesting reading. I hope you love The Cruel Prince as much as I did!

  5. This one is getting so much good buzz. Glad you liked it. My co-bloggers love Black, but I have yet to read any of her books. This could be a great place to start. Great review!

    1. The hype for this one is crazy, but for once I think it’s actually deserved. YES Sam, this would be an amazing way to try out Black’s work. Hope you get the chance to pick it up soon!

  6. I definitely need to fit some of Holly Black’s backlist into my reading schedule. I loved this, and now I wonder why I waited so long to try her stuff. What other books of hers would you recommend?

    1. Yessssss, I’m so happy to hear that you’re going to explore more Holly Black! If you’re looking for more dark goodness, I recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown or Tithe (her debut, also about fae). I also loved The Darkest Part of the Forest, which also explores complex sibling relationships (and features the fae…hahaha), but it’s a teensy bit lighter.

      Don’t forget to report back! I’m excited to hear what you think of her backlist. πŸ™‚

      1. I actually have The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my list already, and I think The Darkest Part of the Forest, but this is the first time I’ve hard of Tithe (yeah, I’m pretty clueless, lol). I’m definitely interested in that one, hearing that it’s about the Fae too! πŸ˜€

  7. Aw yay, I am so glad you loved this one!! I am literally the only person who didn’t, but the problem clearly is with me here! I do love morally grey characters, which is why it is even more shocking that I didn’t love this one. I honestly wonder if I read it again if I would have better results! Great review!

    1. Nooooooooo, I’m so sorry to hear that this didn’t work for you Shannon! I think you’re the first person I’ve heard say a negative thing about it, which saddens me because I love this book…but also it’s kinda nice to hear a different perspective on a beloved book, ya know?

      I do wonder if you’re right, and a reread in a different frame of mind would make it more enjoyable!

  8. Huh. That would be an odd situation, being raised by the man who killed your parents. I like it when authors don’t pull any punches, and I like unpredictable, and I love morally gray characters! You have me even more excited to read this!

    1. Wouldn’t it though? Holly Black explores that messed up dynamic SO well here! The more I think about this book and its characters, the more impressed I am. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it, Kristen!

  9. EEP! This review is just everything, Danya! I loved these morally grey characters too. I’m hoping that the popularity of this one will lead to more twisty characters in YA fantasy. Now, that’s a change that I would totally be up for. Ugh but now the wait for the second book! *screams*

    1. Hooooraaaay thanks Nick! I struggled to write anything more coherent than “READ THIS FOR MY FRAGILE BROKEN BB JUDE, PLS.” I would 100% be down for more twisty stories and twisted MCs in YA. The wait for book two is gonna kill me…

    • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    • 4 years ago

    I already have The Cruel Prince in my reading queue and can’t wait to get to it: every review I read convinces me I will LOVE this story – and I just received one of the strongest confirmations ever by reading your review. Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

    1. Oh yay, I’m so happy to hear that you’re planning on reading this one Maddalena! It’s all the best parts of YA without any of the less desirable aspects, haha. The Cruel Prince is definitely going to be one of my favourites from 2018!

    • Karen

    • 4 years ago

    Skimmmmming! I want to read this one really bad! Really happy you loved it.

    For What It’s Worth

    1. Can’t wait to hear your take on this one, Karen! I was blown away.

    • Bookworm Brandee

    • 4 years ago

    I am so going to pick up this book, Danya! I read Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series a long time ago.and I quite enjoyed it. After reading your comment about her pulling no punches, it made me think…perhaps that’s one reason I enjoyed it so much. It was gritty and violent. That felt more genuine in the story than other books I’d read in that genre. Anyway, I really like the sound of The Cruel Prince and you have me eager to read it. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you’re planning on reading this one, Brandee! The Modern Faerie Tales series was one of my first ever fae books (way back in high school, haha) and I still remember loving it. The Cruel Prince is just as good…frankly, I think it’s better! Black is such an accomplished writer.

  10. Morally grey characters are the best and most interesting to read about, I think. I love how you described the sisters, the different ways they try to survive and how the author doesn’t pick one over the other as being the better ones. That’s excellent writing!

    1. I agree Verushka, give me more morally grey characters please! Especially when you can’t help loving them despite their terrible deeds. YES! Black did an incredible job of portraying Jude and Taryn. She’s an incredible writer.

    • Lynn Williams

    • 4 years ago

    Yes – I loved this one too. Deliciously dark. I love reading about the fae and Holly Black is the Queen of Faedark.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

    1. Yes, couldn’t agree more about Holly Black! She shines so much when she’s writing about the fae. Can’t wait for book two!

    • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    • 4 years ago

    I have to admit that this isn’t a book I would’ve picked up on my own. But after seeing your review and many others rave about it too, I have to read it! It sounds pretty epic, to be honest. Great review!

  11. Wow I’m so glad you loved this. I keep debating on adding it to my TBR. I do enjoy books where characters actions are actually bad and not so reserved like in most YA books! Great Review!

  12. You’ve nailed what made this book so awesome way better than I did. It was so good with it’s morally grey characters and the fact that Madoc shouldn’t have been anyway likeable but I kind of liked him. It was just so so good with how twisted all faerie’s should be. I need the next book in my life!

    • Jazmen Greene

    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t heard a single bad thing about this book. I am definitely getting on the Cruel Prince train. Great review!

    • Lynn Williams

    • 4 years ago

    Yes, I loved this book – but then I do like Holly Black. I’ve read quite a few of her books, the early fae books starting with Tithe – although still waiting to read The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Coldest Girl – which I really liked and also the Curse Worker series.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

  13. WELL! What a recommendation! I wanted to read this one, and now I really, really NEEEED this one. I LOVE the sound of this!!! I haven’t read anything by Holly Black yet, so this might be my first book and I love morally grey characters and fae. πŸ™‚ GREAT REVIEW!

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