Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

It’s a perfect week to dive straight into the review of The Wicked King, the sequel of The Cruel Prince. Yay, continuity! I’ve mentioned my worry with sequels before—often they feel like an afterthought and lose some of their magical luster because the world isn’t new. Luckily, The Wicked King isn’t one of those. If anything, this feels as if the three book series was written as a single story and broken into three pieces. (For the review of The Cruel Prince, go here.)

Which is honestly how a good trilogy (or series, or what not) should feel.

The Story

Oh, all the machinations. I didn’t think things could grow more complicated than when we left them in Cruel Prince, but here we are. There are a number of major players vying for the throne King Cardan currently occupies, mainly because power is addictive and everyone wants some. And, also because Cardan is a unusually bad king. He rules like he lives, carefree and blind to any consequences.

Jude isn’t one of these people trying to get the throne, mainly because she secretly holds power through a oath struck with Cardan where he must obey her for a year and a day. Not that that keeps him from pushing her buttons and boundaries at every turn. All of what Jude’s done is to ensure that when her little brother Oak, the rightful heir, is old enough to survive being king, there will be a throne to sit on.

This would be so much easier if the Undersea wasn’t brewing up a war in the most conniving way possible. Or if Jude’s faerie father Madoc wasn’t also manipulating things to put himself on the throne.

True to a good YA romantic dark fantasy, there had to be a steady dose of angst and emotional twisting at every turn. Will Cardan’s mother, who has been locked into the tower of forgetting, have information that will change everything? Will the death of people Jude feels compelled to murder solve the multitude of problems brewing just beneath the surface? Will the love/hate relationship between Cardan and Jude turn into something more?

The story seeds planted in the Cruel Prince grow to maturity in the most twisty and unexpected ways possible in Wicked King. Will the fruit be worth it in the Queen of Nothing? We’ll see.

My Review

There are an amazing number of great lines in this book as Jude sorts out her feelings for Cardan.

I’ve wanted this and feared it, and now that it’s happening, I don’t know how I will ever want anything else.

My body has acclimated, and now it craves what it should revile.

“I hate you,” I say, the words coming out like a caress. I say it again, over and over. A litany. An enchantment. A ward against what I really feel.

The Wicked King is a marvelously twisty and excellently crafted story that exceeds expectations. I liked how skillfully all the different factions played off each other and how each deception and intrigue heightened the emotional tension and the stakes.

Recommendations

The same as with The Cruel Prince, this is definitely a book for high school aged readers and up. there’s lots of violence, some language, and plenty of intensity that’s it’s solidly PG-13. More than that, it’s simply too complicated for a younger reader to really enjoy. Most of the interesting bits revolve around political manuvering, secrets, and murder.

That said, it’s well conceived, has plenty of lovely writey bits, and lives up to it’s promise.

I give The Wicked King 4/5 for being awesome but possibly too twisty to fully enjoy.


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