This is an inclusive review for the series of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air. It is comprised of The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. There’s also a novella called The Lost Sisters (which I didn’t read and don’t intend to… Taryn isn’t my favorite character). I’m reviewing them all at once because I read the series in three days and the reviews on them separately would be pretty short.
First off, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this series so much. YA fantasy set in a faerie world isn’t exactly my favorite form of fantasy, usually. This book is perfect for people who want a little bit of romance in their fantasy, who like their fantasy mixing with reality, who enjoy murderous, politicking, badass female leads.
“To our clever Jude, who made the Folk remember why they stay in their barrows and hills, for fear of mortal ferocity.”
It was a good fix for me! Will it be a series that I read again and again? Probably not, but it was immensely enjoyable while I was reading. The Cruel Prince starts out with three girls in their mortal home, their world is turned inside out when a man walks in and murders their parents. Madoc (aka the murderer) is the father of their eldest sister, Vivi. He takes all three girls to live in faerieland and acts as father to them all. Jude (our main character) and her twin sister Taryn were young enough that they accept the faeries as their people and Madoc as their father easily. Vivienne, not so much, even though she’s the only one with powers and faerie blood. Jude happens to be a badass fighter and a target to the faerie nobles around her. She won’t submit to them and they don’t enjoy that. Her biggest enemies are Cardan and his group of friends. Their friend, Locke, befriends Jude and becomes a romantic interest. Cardan is known for being cruel (hence the title), spoiled, hateful. Jude makes it a personal mission to get on his bad side after a few attacks from his group.
So, I’m not gonna go into much more plot for this, but there’s a lot of betrayal. By friends and family alike. I was truly surprised by one of the twists early on during The Cruel Prince and lets just say… Taryn, is a bad person for the majority of this series. The last book kinda redeems her, but she really is so selfish. She’s 100% my least favorite character.
“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,” Taryn says. “Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”
My favorite things about these books, besides Jude being a badass with a sword who slowly poisons herself each day to build an immunity… the romance between (minor spoiler, but most of the books are based on this) Jude and Cardan. The chemistry between them is one of those that while you read, you’re smiling to yourself and blushing.
“But kissing Locke never felt the way that kissing Cardan does, like taking a dare to run over knives, like an adrenaline strike of lightning, like the moment when you’ve swum too far out in the sea and there is no going back, only cold black water closing over your head.”
The Cruel Prince ends with a lot of political maneuvers to get the crown and Jude is a HUGE mastermind behind this. This leads us into The Wicked King. The Jude and Cardan hate/romance continues and the political scheming continues. There’s war with the Undersea, which is another kingdom. Holding onto the monarchy is not easy, and Madoc is a huge instigator in this.
“You can take a thing when no one’s looking. But defending it, even with all the advantage on your side, is no easy task,” Madoc told her with a laugh. She looked up to find him offering her a hand. “Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”
There’s a lot of murder, as usual. Jude is the biggest strong arm in the series besides Madoc. She’s truly his daughter, even though she isn’t biologically his. The intricacies of their relationship is one of my favorite. She knows she should hate him, but she doesn’t completely. She knows she shouldn’t love him, but she does. She admires him, she’s afraid of him, she loves him, she hates him. And he feels the same, except I don’t know if he even hates her. I think he respects her but is still true to his own maniacal nature.
“Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder,” Locke calls after me. “We would be surprised to find that,” I call back.
Eventually, just when Jude is starting to really trust Cardan, after he saves her from a dangerous situation, he seemingly betrays her. This leads us to Queen of Nothing. It starts out with Jude exiled to the mortal world, where she doesn’t fit. She’s stuck here until Taryn comes to ask her for her help with a task.
“Prince Cardan will be your last born child,” the Royal Astrologer said. “He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.”
We learn a lot about Cardan throughout this book. We learn more about his mom and her horrible parenting. We learn about his dad and the prophecy that shunned Cardan from his love. We learn why Cardan was so accepting of his cruel brothers’ behavior/love. Cardan at the beginning of the series seems unredeemable, but there’s a lot of psychology involving the way that he acts.
“Prince Cardan ought to have been suspicious of this kindness, but he’d had little enough of the real thing to tell true from false.”
Jude learns a lot about herself too. She realizes that she’s been so conditioned to expect betrayal that she didn’t think Cardan’s “betrayal” through. She learns that Cardan HAS been learning from her, and has started using his cleverness and power to make changes. She didn’t want to see it but he did. Cardan and Jude FINALLY admit their love to each other just in time for him to be cursed into a giant serpent, where she’s faced with a choice.
So, here’s some overall thoughts:
- Vivienne adds almost nothing to the story except a reason for her father to come kill their parents. She is supposed to hate her father so much but there’s a only few words here and there, and some snideness. She’s almost entirely useless. I guess she’s useful for helping their brother Oak stay in the mortal world but a lot more could have been done with her.
- Taryn is an utterly annoying character, but she is needed. The divide she creates in their household provides for a good storyline. The fact that she is Jude’s twin is good for confusion among the characters. That doesn’t mean that she’s a good sister, in fact she’s a pretty awful and selfish one, but she’s a good character.
- 70% of my interest in this story after book one was the love story between Cardan and Jude and MY GOD, there needed to be more interaction there. The last two books could never be 5 stars for me because of the bouncing around and the missed opportunities to provide that, but that’s just me.
- I love that Jude realizes that a lot of her inclination towards violence is because she’s so unhappy within.
“It feels good to be fighting someone other than myself.”
With all of that said, here’s my final ratings:
The Cruel Prince: 4.75/5
The Wicked King: 4/5
Queen of Nothing: 3.75-4/5 (hard for me to decide this one)
And my god, would I love a POV from Cardan. He makes the story so much fun.
“By you, I am forever undone.”