The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude and Taryn are twin girls who are ripped away from their human home and taken to the Fae land of Elfhame. There, they are raised alongside their older sister, Vivi, in a world that is far from familiar. While the Fae cannot lie, they all harbor secrets. Jude and Taryn separately try to fit in by going to classes and keeping up on their swordplay. But nothing in Elfhame is what it seems and each girl must decide the course of their fate.
Jade, the protagonist, is a young teen who wants to earn her place in the Fae Realm of Elfhame. She wants to rise through the ranks and use her skills to become part of the Royal Guard. She opposes some of the norms of Elfhame. Like humans being treated like their are dispensable. But Jade is cunning and knows how to trick some Fae into following her own plans.
Taryn is Jane’s twin sister. We’re constantly reminded of this as Jane refers to her as her own mirror. She is also determined to fit into the Fae Realm, but she plans to marry into a well-off family. Taryn is less determined than her twin, and is constantly willing to bend to the whims of everyone else around her. Above all, Taryn is a people pleaser who is constantly worried about what others think of her.
Cardan, the antagonist, is a spoiled young prince who does what he wants and gets away with it. He tortures Jade because she’s defiant and is the only one who stands up to him. Cardan is a bully. His passionate hatred for Jane is what drives him. He picks on her every chance he gets and even encourages his group of friends to do the same. Cardan hides behind is crown because he can, being one of the youngest. He knows he’s not destine to become king, so he acts out.
Vivi is the only one who is not in love with Elfhame. Although she is a fae, she desperately wants out and to be part of the human world. She defies her father whenever she can because she’s resentful for being pulled back to Elfhame. She’s the biggest voice of reason and tries to be rational.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I think I expected a lot because there was a huge ope surrounding this novel. I have always been a fan of Holly Black’s writing, but this book falls short.
My biggest problem is Jude. I don’t feel a connection to her. She’s not likable. You spend most of the book yelling at her to stop being an idiot. She thinks she’s being defiant and standing up to someone who bullies her, but she’s at a huge disadvantage. Jude is human and is navigating through a world that is not her own. She constantly underestimates her opponents. I want more for her and I feel disappointed with her.
I also have a problem with Taryn. Much like her twin, she’s not likable, but for different reasons. She’s weak and selfish. She doesn’t care about her sister’s feelings, she only wants what’s best for her. She’s more than willing to lie to and manipulate her twin to get what she wants. But Taryn isn’t even cunning, she does these things because she’s told to. It’ll make her loved and more desirable I she does what she’s told.
I have heard a lot of people praise the world building of Elfhame, but I don’t see it. While there are beautiful new creatures, I don’t otherwise see the draw of Elfhame. It seems like this realm is similar to every other faerie realm I’ve read about.
I also feel frustrated with the potential of Vivi. I was excited to see a bisexual character in this story. Vivi is vibrant and rebellious. She’s like any teenager, but she’s not human and not typical. She’s the only one who wants to escape Elfhame. Vivi has a much better story to tell than the twins do (combined). I wanted to see more of her and why she has a chip on her shoulder.
Overall, I don’t understand the hype surrounding this book. The characters and the faerie realm are nothing spectacular. The only thing that saves this book is how well written it is. But there are some points that feel too verbose or too amateur. I don’t have high expectations for the rest of this series, but I will continue reading the rest of the books.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars