I think of what it means to make myself the villain of the piece.
At a young age, Jude witnesses the murder of her parents. The murderer General Madoc then takes her and her sisters, only one of who is his actual child, to the land of faeries. She grows up there, raised as a true faerie, though not one bit of faerie blood is in her. She may be raised like one, but is hardly treated as one by those outside her family. Cardan, the absolute worst, and youngest prince of the high royal family, is one of her worst tormentors. And yet Jude dreams of nothing more than earning her rightful place among him and the rest of faerie kind.
It’s the most shocking, twisty, heart-dropping, beautiful, painful book I’ve ever read.
I love movies and TV as much as I do books, but the love is definitely different. I find my love for movies to be more emotional, and my love for books more thrill-based. I cry over many movies, but not many books. I loudly squeal and shout when I read, but tend to be less expressive beyond basic, powerful emotion with movies.
The Cruel Prince did not make me cry. But it did give me a feeling I almost exclusively experience with movies. Sometimes a scene is so perfectly, perfectly, perfect it feels like it was made specifically for me. It fills me with such contentment, that in the moment, it feels like everything in the world just disappears. Most recently, I felt this complete joy in The Last Jedi, in a beautiful, unexpected, brief partnership I won’t elaborate on because I guess it still counts as a spoiler.
In books, I felt this way with the end of Midnight at the Electric. And with the end of Crown of Midnight. No matter how much I may love a book–and there have been many fantastic ones in my recent reading queue–it’s rare I feel this happiness with a book. I had this moment multiple times while reading The Cruel Prince.
It’s dark and gruesome, clever and sneaky. It’s full of political court intrigue, which is my absolute favorite thing in anything. It tricks you into focusing on things that, in the grand scheme of the book, aren’t that important. Nothing is as it seems. Not even our first person narrator.
Every moment of narrative shock feels earned. The ending is one of the most painful moments in all of YA, but the pain somehow feels worth it. I’ve already reread that scene several times over. It’s an ending so unexpected I can’t even guess where the sequels will go. There are so many possibilities. The present, a few months later, a few years later? Which will it be?
And before this book even turns into something that shocks you at every turn, it’s humorous in a cruel, cynical way that is so appropriate for the book.
This is a book to be sped through, then read again to be savored. It’s meant to be dissected, but only if you can survive that first reading.
The characters are as unexpected as the plot. Jude is strong, independent, strategic, conniving and straight-up powerful in the most unexpected ways, and every bit the anti-heroine protagonist I want, but rarely see in YA. Our cruel prince, Cardan, is not evil as much as he is bitter and guarded and regularly drowning in a sea of alcoholic despair. They are both haunted, both destroyed, both capable of the horrible and yet I love them both so much. Neither does what you expect (nor does anyone else in this story) but it always makes sense in retrospect.
It’s the perfect book, meant just for me. (And, as I can infer from the hype machine, meant for everyone else as well.)
I’m ready for more pain. More shock. Bring it on! I feel like I can take on anything from the universe.
I have only request from Holly Black. Please kill Locke. Or, at least have something absolutely horrible and gutting happen to him. *sing song voice* Thank you!