Holly Black's novel, The Dark Prince, is a dark story full of intrigue, cruel beauty and twists around every corner. If you're tired of cliched plot lines, The Cruel Prince is the book for you. It's an extremely original story with twisted characters. There's no 'good,' everyone has their faults, and boy, are they big faults. You might even call them evils.
I loved this novel, it really was a great way to start off the year, entirely different from what I was expecting. There was no way I could've predicted the end of the novel from the first few chapters, the story's motives keep changing and expanding.
Of course, going into the book I wasn't sure what to expect either. I've never read a Holly Black book, but after this one I'm sure I'll be trying another one of her stories soon. Before reading The Cruel Prince, I wasn't sure if it was modern day or if it had a fantasy setting. All I knew was that there were faeries, the protagonist was a human living amongst them, and that there was, well, a cruel prince. All elements that are bound to draw me to the story to begin with-- I love faeries. And I love "mean" characters, because there's usually a reason for their malice, and the meaner the better the backstory.
Just everything about this novel was a pleasant surprise. It was modern day, but that didn't take away from the aura of the faeries. Where the story begins and ends are drastically different places, despite the book not taking place over a long length of time. Priorities change very quickly over the course of the story, and I loved that.
This book is a combination of telling the story of a complicated family relationship, harassment, magic, and courtly politics. How do you fit those all together smoothly into a story? I have no idea, but somehow Holly Black was able to make it work. Somehow you get a modern tone in a world feels anything but. The book deals with modern, seemingly un-fantasical issues like bullying at school, while also depicting magic and the intrigue of court. I just can't emphasize how amazed I am at how smoothly and well this book read despite the combination of different topics. It's one of the main factors in making this book seem very original and different from most other stories.
While I can't promise the story has a fast start, it's not exactly slow either. From almost the first few pages I felt like I was sucked into the story. Not because there were any particularly BIG events and plot twists to draw my attention, no, the story had to set those up first. No, I was drawn in because of the narration. The tone, and... the setting. I don't know, everything just seemed to make me want to stay in the novel, to continue because I knew it was going to get even more interesting soon. Not that I was bored... I don't know how to explain it. I guess I could say that I was intrigued from the very beginning, and then my investment in the story only grew from there.
"The odd thing about ambition is this: You can acquire it like a fever, but it is not so easy to shed."
The rest of the quote is real interesting but it's spoilery so...
Jude is The Cruel Prince's protagonist. She's a human living in the faerie world... which makes her life extremely complicated. To her and everyone around her, she looks inferior to their immortal perfection. Yet Jude is determined to prove her worth. She's quite the ideal protagonist. She's a fighter, not one to be pushed over (as you will quickly realize), and her morals are far from perfect. Jude is twisted. She's lived in a twisted world of clever deceit for so long that she's basically become part of it. What I'm trying to say is that Jude isn't exactly good. I wouldn't categorize her as an anti-hero, but she certainly isn't a full on hero, either. Jude falls somewhere in-between, which is part of why she's such a fun protagonist to follow.
"You're like a story that hasn't happened yet. Because I want to see what you will do. I want to be part of the unfolding of the story." (okay, that might not be quoted correctly, sorry, I have picture and the quote moves onto another page.)
Then there's Cardan, the cruel prince. And boy, he is pretty cruel. He certainly wasn't what I expected, going into the novel, but then again, nothing in this novel was what I expected. He's... dark, like all the characters in the novel, yet somehow he came out to be one of my favorites. I'm fascinated by his relationship with Jude. (not that they have a relationship, just the way they interact with each other). I don't want to give anything away, I'll just say I had a lot of fun reading their interactions at certain points in the story. Cardan is a mystery, and it was certainly hard to figure him out. You think you got him down in a box, and then he'll do something that completely blows those walls open.
All and all, I would give The Cruel Prince 8/10 stars. It was a fantastic read, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of fantasy, faeries, court intrigue or just something new, different from the usual type of story. It's a fun book, or, in the words of Leigh Bardugo it's "lush, dangerous, a dark jewel of a book." Couldn't agree more. If you like happy, light books, this isn't for you, but if you enjoy a bit of betrayal and a story that'll keep your mind on its toes, this is the one for you.
Anyway, here's the synopsis:
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
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. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE CRUEL PRINCE, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE NOVEL YET
Let's just start this part off with some self-satisfaction. I KNEW I COULDN'T TRUST LOCKE. Neve trust the friendly guy in this kind of story. It's the cruel ones that show exactly who they are, like my lovely bae, Cardan. Locke was just hiding behind a friendly mask. He's actually a dick and I KNEW IT. Sorry, just proud of myself for figuring that out. And I also had a good guess that Locke was Taryn's suitor.
"I have lied. I have betrayed. I have triumphed."
Let's just ask what the hell kind of sister is Taryn? Sure she "warned" Jude, but seriously? She's.. Ugh. I really hate disloyalty and that is the prime example of it.
Now, thinking of Cardan. At first I thought he was a love interest. But then I Was like oh shit nope. He's VERY cruel. No chance of a romance there. And then it turned around when she found that paper with her name all over it. Jude thought that was a sign of hate but like... Nope people don't do that when they hate you. I loved the interaction with Cardan and Jude, and that's the thing I'm really looking forward to seeing more of in the next book.
Cardan... Ah just wow. All the interactions in the 2nd part of the book just had my mind grinning. I can't describe it, I just loved it. After the party when he's completely under her control and they decide to "work together." Wow. Fantastic.
Okay, so the last bit of the book moved a little fast. At first it seems like a normal, perhaps slow paced story to start off with. Little odd mix of modern day and faerie, and then the next part of the novel went wholly fantasy on us and moved so quickly! Jeez. like the negotiations just breezed through. Then the end, wow. The throne room scene? I was on the edge of my seat. (I actually was, I like to sit on the edge of my seat to keep good posture.) The betrayal of Cardan (somehow that betrayal was okay, haha.) and then his words to her at the end of the book? AH. Get me the next book this instant.
And then there's that whole thing with Dain. And all the siblings, really. Like, wow, I was not expecting them to all get wiped out! I was expecting that Dain issue to come into play in books to come, but it's great now that he's dead. Surprising, and missing out on some potential with continuing sibling rivalry, but it was REALLY surprising. Something that doesn't happen in too many books today. I have to respect that creative decision because it really started off the new, different part of the story.
Anyway, thanks for reading.