After their parents are viciously murdered, Jude and her two sisters are abducted by the assassins and taken into the world of Faerie, where humans are kept as slaves and mocked for their mortal imperfections and all three girls must take different courses to ensure their survival. While her mortal twin sister Taryn chooses to passively accept her fate, Jude’s solution is to become a ruthless mistress of deception (because the fey cannot lie) and spy and manipulate her way into the echelons of the King’s council. Meanwhile, for Vivienne - their eldest sister who is part-mortal and part-faerie and whose fey father Madoc was responsible for their mortal parents’ murder – an escape back to the mortal world is the only answer. The only problem is, Jude and Taryn have come to respect Madoc, but Vivienne’s hatred for him will never die.
Actually, that’s not the only problem. At least, not for Jude. Because if Jude is going to prove she is superior to her faerie tormentors and succeed in her power-play, she must first overcome the ‘cruel prince’ Cardan, who is surrounded by followers and seems intent on humiliating and destroying her. As hostilities, intrigues and dangers escalate, and as sister turns against sister, Jude must take risks and make alliances in a desperate bid to stay alive and prevent everything she cares about from being torn apart.
When it comes to YA fantasy, Holly Black – author of The Darkest Part of the Forest and co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles (among many other titles) – definitely knows what she’s doing, but The Cruel Prince is still an exceptional achievement. It’s fast-paced and complex, the characters are complicated and three-dimensional, the sense of atmosphere and detail is captivating. In fact, it feels almost like a faerie version of Game of Thrones, with a level of ambiguity and viciousness (especially where Cardan is concerned) that is truly refreshing for a story in this genre. Black’s prose style is compelling too, and she makes sure that every character (and there are quite a few) is delineated and memorable – there’s never a sense that any part of this universe has just been sketched in, which makes this one of the most enjoyable and immersive reading experiences of the last twelve months. And the ending… wow.
As far as faults go, they are few and far between. The only big one is a minor mid-point slump which is mostly forgivable because the quality of Black’s writing is just so damn good. Oh, and the fact that we’ll probably have to wait at least another year or two for the sequel…
Do you believe in faeries? Read The Cruel Prince and I think you will.
THE CRUEL PRINCE / AUTHOR: HOLLY BLACK / PUBLISHER: HOT KEY BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2ND