It’s always a gamble to dive into a new series, usually the first book is wonderful but there’s no guarantee that the rest of the series will live up to it. The Cruel Prince is a great start to a series, but is also complicated due to the many new concepts that must be introduced to the reader.
Jude Duarte is a human girl living among the faeries in the magical world of Elfhame. Her past is dripping with tragedy and her future is uncertain. As a human, she will never fit in among the folk of Elfhame, but due to the positions of power her father holds, she has to live up to expectations.
And then there’s swoony Prince Cardan, the angst torn love interest who’s an absolute jerk even though he’s gorgeous. As one of the faerie folk, he’s got magic and mystery woven into everything he does. But, he also has a uniquely tragic backstory.
The story itself switches at break neck speed as Jude knows what she wants, only for it to be destroyed over and over again. There is a lot of drama and surprising violence wrapped up in each choice she makes. When she joins the secretive Court of Teeth and learns to be a spy and an assassin, it feels right for her, but wrong for everyone else.
While in the end Jude does have a few wins, most of the book is her losing and regrouping.
There is a lot to like in this book. The Faerie World is unique and beautifully created, the attention to costume and dresses, sparkly and magical. Lots of eye candy everywhere. This focus on beauty makes the violence that much worse. The tension among each of the characters is stretched so tight that often the reader doesn’t know who is allied to who.
But, the story is really complicated. There are what feels like dozens of factions fighting for control over the faerie world. Jude is caught up in the middle with no real claim to anything, but because her brother is heir to the throne, she can’t help but insert herself where she doesn’t belong out of concern for him.
The Folk of the Air series is definitly intended for readers highschool age and up. Like I said before, there is quite a bit of violence. There are also a fair amount of romantic situations that push further than I expected. There’s some language and plenty of magical drug use.
That said, there are also strong characters willing to do what’s right and sacrifice for the greater good, which is a win for me.
I give The Cruel Prince 4/5 amazing world building, great characters, but the story is often hard to follow.
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