Warning: There are major spoilers ahead in this review.
For the second round of The Seahawk’s summer book club, Young Adult fiction met fantasy and romance in an epic book called The Cruel Prince. Written by Holly Black, this YA book introduces its readers to Jude Duarte, who is a spy and a fighter in a mystical world of strange creatures. It is an enthralling read.
The story begins when Jude is seven and her family is killed for revenge by the general of a Faeire army of the High King. She is taken to a world full of fantastical creatures to live until adulthood at which the book skips ahead to Jude at age 17.
After being mercilessly picked on about being a mortal in a world full of faeries and enduring violent mental and physical attacks from the High King’s son, Prince Cardan and his friends, Jude learns that there will soon be a shift of power between the High King and his other two sons, Prince Dain and Balekin, who are in a power struggle. This prompts her to look for ways to elevate her status and ensure her and her family’s safety by becoming a spy for Prince Dain.
This book is slow to read at first, but in the second half, there are more twists and turns than a maze. During his coronation, Prince Dain is brutally murdered by Balekin. Prince Balekin goes on to slay his other three sisters and the High King himself. There continues to be violent betrayal throughout the rest of the book. These intricate plot twists make it a very interesting book and a good read for the summer.
While most young adult books have a difficult time producing likable female main characters that have depth and distinction, Jude and her sisters are an exception. They protect each other and they have a tight bond that helps them succeed at the end of the book. They also have their own form of honor codes and morals that foil each other, but pair well together. They are strong in their own ways; Jude being physically and mentally resilient, Taryn being silently steady and Vivienne being a free spirit who won’t be controlled. This is very uplifting to see in a genre that often traps women in a love triangle.
Although it boasts an interesting plot and features strong female leads, one part of this book that is problematic is the relationship between Cardan and Jude. After Jude fights to defeat Cardan and his friends, who have watched and laughed when she almost dies, she then finds that Cardan really has feelings for her. She kisses him just to prove a point and gain power over him, but they do not begin a relationship. However, the book also hints that Jude reciprocates these feelings for him. Cardan never proves that he is a decent person and has very little character development in the book, therefore making him prone to violence and betrayal. This is a series of three books and hopefully his character will be expounded upon in the next installment.
The heavy use of description makes the books difficult to read at first, but it has benefits in the end. The description in this book enhances the overall splendor that Black wants the reader to feel about the Faerie world. Everything is covered in opulence and through the description, readers can visualize the glamour, making this an easier book to read and one in which readers can delve. Much like the magical fruit described in the book that lures readers to their harrowing fate, his fantastical nature of the characters that Black describes will lure readers in and will force them to gleefully continue reading.