The Cruel Prince is the first novel in The Folk of the Air trilogy, a series of fantasy novels for young adults.
The novel opens when Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and half faerie sister Vivi are abducted from our world by Madoc, Vivi’s father. They are taken to the dark world of Faerie and each of the girls has to find ways to come to terms with the loss of their parents and their new lives.
For Vivi, this means rejecting the Faerie way and spending most of her time in the human world. Taryn works to assimilate herself in the new world to such an extent that she eventually repudiates her twin sister. Jude is the focus of the novel and she really struggles to become a warrior in a virtual love-hate relationship, so much does she want to be like the fae folk while knowing she can never be as good because they have magic.
Holly Black seamlessly interweaves the world of Faerie with the “real world”. Considering how close the nature of many of the faeries – deceitful, manipulative, cruel and bullying – is to many humans this becomes less surprising. Setting the action in a mythical world allows the author to explore the flaws of our own world, reflecting back to the reader the behaviours we see or read about every day.
The novel has a startling opening then settles down to a long, slow simmer without ever losing the reader’s attention. The world of Faerie is wonderfully portrayed as a deliciously dark and wicked complex world of magic. The characters are vibrantly drawn and the sexual undertones between Jude and Prince Cardan provide added spice.
The intricate twists and turns which lead readers deeper into the world of Faerie are also used by the author to build conflict in our feelings about the characters. At the beginning Madoc is a cruel, vicious murderer but is he all bad; and what of the Cruel Prince himself? We can feel and understand Jude’s dilemma when she says, “I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe” (back cover).
The violence of the beginning is echoed at the close of the novel in a totally unexpected way, leaving we readers on tenterhooks for the next novel in the series. I can hardly wait.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: January 2018