Reader Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

The Cruel Prince [#1]: ★★★★★

Lately, it seems that this book has been all the rage – I’ve been spotting it featured on recommended lists across an array of different literature sites and book blogs and I’ve seen the mass of positive reviews pour in. As more and more people continuously provided good feedback on the first installation of this new series, I knew that I had to grab the book when I saw it during a trip to a local bookstore. I had skimmed the blurb previously, though, admittedly, I went into reading without knowing much about the plot at all – I hadn’t even known what the genre actually was. Needless to say, I was incredibly caught off-guard and endlessly impressed.

Jude was seven when she witnessed the murders of her two parents before she and her sisters were taken to live in the High Court of Faerie – a place where magic, chaos, and fae folk run amok. Though, ten years on, Jude wants to find her place amongst the world of the Faerie, despite being looked down upon for being human by many of the fey – notably the High Prince Carden, who’s torment seems to be endless. To do so, she must win a place at the Court as a Knight, though what happens when her father figure – the man who murdered her parents 10 years prior – attempts to disallow her from doing so? Jude soon finds herself caught up in situations that push her to see how far her own capabilities will go and tests just how serious she really is about earning her place among the fae.

From the introduction of the book, there is a distinctive tone and style of writing that captures the attention of the reader and pulls them in straight away. Immediately they want to read more as, from the start of the series, the premise and the concept stands out – the reader knows that there’s a lot still to be uncovered and explored further, so this prompts them to do so. Just within the first few pages, the audience is going to be able to tell that there’s a special story that’s about to be told and that it’s going to be one hell of an experience to get through it. This is only then heightened by the fact that the book has been written so incredibly effectively and in such a way that completely transports the readers into this fantasy world that they haven’t experienced before. The writing is continuously descriptive and immersive – it creates wonderful and (if I may) magical visualisation that utterly makes the reader wish to experience it first-hand themselves. It’s so intriguing and creates such vast, detailed imagery that it’s a pleasure to read and get lost in the world and life amongst the characters that the audience is also reading about. 

The world featured within the narrative is so well-developed and intricate that it actually does feel real for the readers to experience. There’s so much immersive information and developed elements that draw the reader in and make them feel as if they’re a part of the whole thing – which is, unsurprisingly, one of the reasons as to why the book has attracted so much attention in such a short amount of time. The world-building is very specific and, overall, incredibly cool and I found myself endlessly thinking about the various parts of it – even the places on the map that weren’t necessarily main points of the plot or the scene that I was currently reading. The story obviously keeps the reader entertained, but it’s also the fact that the characters have so much depth which makes the book so appealing. I found that generally all of the characters felt very real in their personalities and the traits that they held. The way that they interacted with each other, with their own lives, and with the world that they live in is continuously developed and insight. In turn, this makes the characters feel a lot more relatable and a lot more realistic. This is especially the case with Jude as I really liked her as a protagonist. I loved the fact that she’s so strong but she also has vulnerabilities and, to some extent, she acknowledges them, but she’s obviously still got a lot of growing and personal development to go through to come to terms with elements of her life. She’s empowering and relatable, which is something that endlessly inspired me as I read my way through the book and experienced her journey alongside her. You connect with her as the main character and, in turn, you’re able to experience the emotions she feels and the turmoils that she finds herself in. 

As well as this, I also really liked the conflicting personalities between the sisters and I found it intriguing – and also amusing – to witness how they interacted with each other and the dialogue shared between the various characters. To me, these situations don’t feel ‘wooden’ – the characters don’t feel two-dimensional or too cliched, which is incredibly important to me as a reader. I found that as the story continued, I even found myself taking a liking to Calden as the reader got to know his character better and gather further insight into his own story – and this is despite the fact that I hated him when he was firstly introduced. Of course, I also loved the fact that the book makes use of bisexual representation as so much more of this exposure in needed in literature. 

Throughout the novel, the narrative follows a continuously steady pace. It keeps moving and doesn’t get boring, whilst still maintaining the same writing narrative and tone which allows the attention of the audience to be maintained and prevents their intrigue from straying. As the plot develops and progresses further, the action becomes riveting and intense – which makes the story all the more engrossing. I found the plot twists to be fascinating and they did indeed take me off guard – they weren’t predictable and I wasn’t expecting the story to go the way it did, but I’m glad of that fact as it ensured that I was surprised and maintained my attention even further. Despite not being predictable, there is the sense of foreshadowing throughout the continuation of the book, so the audience is able to revisit information and put those elements together to see the buildup to the action directly. 

I also really liked the ending of the book as it leaves a lot more of the story, the narrative, the world, and the characters to be explored. The closing of the first book nicely rounds off the first in the series and definitely brings some aspects of the plot to a close, but, at the same time, it leaves it open-ended in a lot of different points. There’s quite a lot that’s obviously still to be found out and developed, so this is something that puts the audience on edge as they find themselves wanting the next book as soon as possible (I know I’m already itching to get my hands on it). 

To put it simply; I absolutely loved this book. It was such a pleasure to experience due to the fact that it’s so well written – it’s continuously developing the characters, the world, and the storyline in a fashion that keeps the audience glued to each page. Not only did I feel like I made a personal connection with Jude and got to know her more as a person than a character, I also found myself exploring the world further in my own thoughts. The book has been constructed in such a fascinating way, though the plot doesn’t lack and the pace continuously keeps the reader captivated. Even the smallest of details were made to feel important and developed, which is what I loved. The writing style is unique and specific, which reflects the plot and premise itself, and it’s utterly a special story that I’m definitely going to be recommending as much as I can. 

Thank you for reading this short review. If you’ve seen this book around but haven’t picked it up yet, then I highly suggest you do so. 

I’ll write you later. 

If you’re a fan of incredibly well-developed fantasy, astounding world building and in-depth characters who don’t shy from action, then I definitely think you should start reading this series. 

If you’re a fan of fairytales but also enjoy the riveting pace of unpredictable plots and unexpected endings, The Cruel Prince is a book that you should not give a miss.

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