Author: Holly Black
Narrators: Caitlin Kelly
Audiobook Length: 13 hours
By #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.
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.
I am beyond excited that I finally got around to this series. Even though I am late to the game, it was well worth the wait. The Cruel Prince is a fantastic introduction into the series and will keep you wanting to read more. Similar to almost all fantasy novels, you go into the series knowing that some elements are bound to happen. You may not know how or if it will actually work out, but most likely they will occur. This series seems to not be any different based on the first novel where you can predict little things here and there. However, how you get to these elements and how much they captivate you is what made this book great (and I’m guessing will continue in the next novels).
The story starts off with a bang in the prologue with how a mortal girl, Jude Duarte, her twin sister, Taryn, and their older half-fae-born sister, Vivi. Madoc, a fae, who is also Vivi’s father, comes to take them back with him. He ends up killing the mother, her new husband (Jude & Taryn’s biological father), and become the foster father to Jude and Taryn due to the same honor that compelled him to commit murder. It is an insanely strong opening as it sets the stage for the world of the fae and how they operate before the story even transitions to the main plot.
The reader experiences the story through the eyes of Jude as she navigates her new life. Caitlyn Kelly provides the narration for the entire novel and she overall did a great job. There were a few characters here and there that could have been done a little better, but I could not fault her as there were a ton of characters for her to voice, so not all of them could turn out perfectly. Jude is a confusing character at first and is a seemingly unreliable narrator. She does not like her life away from the mortal world, but she schemes and works her way to become a top leader. Her original goal is even to become a member of the guard.
Similar to almost every series, the actual chapters start off slowly, but it truly picks up fairly quickly and does not stop all the way through to the epilogue. The one piece I would have loved would be a character map as, at first, it was difficult to keep up with which characters were which and how they fit together. As a reader, you catch on fairly fast after certain characters appear all the time, but it would have been nice to have a visual just to refer to if you ever lose track. The writing itself was very descriptive where it transported the reader into this magical land that borders the mortal world that we are familiar with in Maine.
All the characters are well-written. You may love some or you may hate some, but I did not come away with any that I truly felt indifferent over. I had at least some kind of opinion on every single character, even the side ones that only briefly appeared. Jude stands out as a protagonist as she is very resourceful where she attempts to approach everything as logically as possible. It fit very well with her as a mortal in a world where mortals are thought of very poorly. She was very unique as a character and I just found myself rooting for her no matter what, even if you did not fully agree with every step along the way. In a world where she is powerless, she is working her way to gaining the power that she deserves. I love how she does not rely on others to just give her the power and instead she works to try and gain it herself. It will be interesting to see how it all continues after the cliffhanger ending! Now onto book two, The Wicked King!