The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake were both books I was super excited to read. There has been a huge buzz around The Cruel Prince in the blogosphere lately, whilst One Dark Throne is, of course, the follow-up to Three Dark Crowns, which I absolutely loved.
Thankfully, I really enjoyed both of these books, although perhaps due to the immense hype and my own high expectations I didn’t love either of them quite as much as I’d hoped?
Check out my reviews to find out more!
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
‘What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.’
Snatched from the human world along with her two sisters Vivi and Taryn, Jude grows up in the High Court of Faerie. But the Faerie Court isn’t a safe place for mortals, and however much Jude wants to belong, many of the Fey despise and mock humans, chief among them being Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. But Jude won’t be pushed from her home and new life in Faerie: she fights back against the cruel Prince, and in doing so is drawn into a terrible plot against the Crown…
Before reading this book I had heard that it was a little slow starting, and I have to agree with that. The first few chapters sets the scene and establishes Jude’s conflict with Prince Cardan and his friends. However, I felt like this didn’t matter too much, as the world of the story was built so richly throughout these early chapters that it still kept me gripped.
I loved the magical, yet deadly nature of the Faerie world, and the way in which Jude so desperately wants to be a part of it despite the fact that nearly everything is a danger to her. She can’t dance at the revels or she might never stop, she has to be careful of what bargains she makes, or even what she says to some of the faeries…yet she is so enchanted by this magical world that she refuses to accept she doesn’t truly belong there.
It was this fierceness of character that I loved most about Jude, and the way that she isn’t just your average ‘tough heroine’. She’s dark and angry inside, and capable of terrible things, but at the same time she has had to be to get by in Faerie, and at heart you can tell she is a good person.
Her relationships with her family members were also really interesting and complex. Her sister Taryn is her best friend, but at the same time both are keeping secrets, and this causes tension. Vivi meanwhile wants nothing to do with the Faerie world, unlike Jude, which puts them at odds, yet they still want what’s best for the other. In fact, I loved the bits where they go back to the mortal world and just hang out at the mall (I was not expecting that!) and you get to see how at home Vivi is, versus the ‘fish-out-of-water’ feelings of Jude.
And then there’s the whole father-daughter relationship with Madoc, the man who stole her away and destroyed her family…let’s just say that’s the most complicated relationship of all!
Meanwhile, the eponymous cruel Prince, Cardan was a fascinating character in that he was just so incredibly punchable throughout the entire first three-quarters of the book. Whilst you come to sympathise with him later in the book, I don’t think I ever reached a point of actually liking him, but I really liked that about this book. I had assumed he was just the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ character who is horrible to the heroine because he is secretly madly in love with her, but actually has a heart of gold, so I’m glad this stereotype was broken somewhat.
In fact, throughout this entire book I kept thinking I’d figured out what was going to happen, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t work out as I had thought. Jude is such a wildly volatile character that she kept surprising me, especially at the end where she continuously double crosses people, to do what she thinks is best.
Overall, I liked how different this book was to my expectations, and the surprisingly dark nature of its’ characters. However, the book could be said to lag a little at the start (however good the world-building was!), and I oddly didn’t find myself 100% loving it as much as I had hoped… I really can’t say why though, which isn’t very helpful when writing a review!
One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
‘But everyone knows that the Breccia Domain is more than an empty hole in the earth. Who knows what happened to the queens who were thrown down into the dark? Into the heart of the island, where the Goddess’s eye is always open.’
Following the shocking events of Three Dark Crowns, the Ascension Year has begun, and the three young queens of Fennbirn must fight to the death to take the throne. Formerly the weakest sister, Katharine is discovering new levels of power after being plunged into the Breccia Domain, but they come at a price… Meanwhile Mirabella is furious that Arsinoe seemingly attacked her at the Quickening after she extended her hand in friendship, and is out for blood, whilst Arsinoe is trying to figure out how to use the secret revelation about her powers to her advantage. Three sisters, three queens, but who will triumph?
This book covers the ‘Ascension Year’ – the year when the three young queens of Fennbirn must fight for the death for the throne – and so I kind of expected the excitement levels to go up from the previous book, Three Dark Crowns… Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like this happened, but it was still an enjoyable book.
The book flicks between the three sisters, and whilst I always enjoyed Arsinoe and Mirabella’s sections, I was never that fussed with Katharine’s, however much her descent into cruelty and madness should have been fascinating. I also feel like the book could have used a lot less Jules.I really liked her in the first book, but found her increasingly annoying in this book, due to her refusal to follow advice, and constant angry outbursts. Yes, this was part of her war gift, but still… It got old fast!
However: on to the things I liked! I did like a lot of the action scenes that happen in this book, and I definitely felt a certain amount of anticipation when I knew two of the queens were going to come into contact with one another soon. With Arsinoe and Mirabella there was the question of whether or not they would actually go through with hurting the other, whilst with Katharine it was whether or not she would be successful.
Katharine’s hunt, for example, was a great scene as it was unexpected and there was a sense that someone could actually get hurt. It also worked well as a way to show the drastic change in Katharine’s character and her newfound cruelty, even if I wasn’t overly bothered about Katharine as a character.
Overall though, I thought this was a slightly more forgettable book than the first. The ending definitely gave me all the feels, but it didn’t leave me desperate to read more, as the first one did (although I’m sure I’ll read the next one when it comes out). It was far from a bad book though, and I continued to like the characters of Arsinoe and Mirabella, and I’m interested to find out what becomes of them following the events of the ending.
So have you read The Cruel Prince and/or One Dark Throne? What did you think? Do you find that hyped books, or books you have high expectations can sometimes leave you feeling a little underwhelmed?