Wolf Packs, Solidarity and A Cruel Prince

by Gurpreet Sihat

Fun fact about writers: we’re one giant pack of lone wolves. What that means is that we often do things out of solidarity for our fellow writers. Or at least, we pretend to.

At the start of the year, a number of my writer friends went on book-buying-bans. Until they had finished reading every single book on their TBR (to-be-read) pile, they weren’t allowed to even glance longingly at another book. Like all good writer friends, I decided to show some solidarity with them; although my solidarity was quite unconventional. I conceded not to go book shopping, yes, but instead I decided to subscribe to the book crate, Fairy Loot. So, in theory, I maintained my solidarity by choosing only to read books that were either sent to me in my monthly Fairy Loot crates or were already on one of the thirty piles that line my bedroom. I won’t lie, I secretly pre-ordered the fourth in Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and ordered Paddington 2 on DVD with a free book (does that count?), but I digress.

In my very first Fairy Loot package, I was sent a signed copy of Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. Since I had agreed to wait to read the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy until my buddy reader was ready (another – albeit failed – act of solidarity), I dove into the first Holly Black novel I had ever read. Black had me hook, line and sinker within the opening paragraphs when a Faerie General, Madoc, makes his way into a human home, kills both parents and kidnaps their three daughters (Vivienne, and twins Jude and Taryn).

The novel, from that point on, is told from the perspective of Jude. Ten years have passed and Jude has given up on trying to fit into Fae society and begins to fight the system she has been raised in instead; the one that says humans are lesser than faeries.

Unlike a lot of the young adult novels I’ve read recently, Black’s story is dark, intricate and morally ambiguous despite the characters obviously understanding the difference between right and wrong. The majority have done cruel, unforgivable things, and although they do good things throughout the book or have dark pasts that explain why they are how they are, they aren’t at all redeemed. We learn to understand them more, but we do not forgive them. Not any of them.

Jude is a great protagonist to follow. She fights through her fear, uses her ability to lie (a trait Fae don’t have) to get what she wants, and can fight just as well, if not better, than her magical counterparts. She’s also bloodthirsty, much like he adopted father. But it’s her relationships with Madoc and the Cruel Prince himself, Cardan, that intrigues me most.

Madoc raises the girls out of honour and duty, but there’s no doubt he has grown to love them as his own, regardless of whether or not they are Fae. Unfortunately, he is what he is. He has a purpose in life, one that revolves around death and power, and whether he’s able to deviate from that is a question I’m curious to find the answer to.

Cardan too is a fantastically complex character, the kind you can’t help but love and hate at the exact same time. He takes being a spoilt, entitled teenager to a whole new level. He’s cruel and unkind, finding humour in humiliating Jude and Taryn, but, like all good villains, a fair bit of it appears to be either an act or reaction to the atrocities he faces behind closed doors with his own family. His relationship with Jude grows into somewhat of an oddity and definitely one of my favourite storylines in Fae literature.

But it was the ending that had me at the edge of my seat, that had me begging for more! You’ll understand what I mean by that if you’ve read it, and if you haven’t then I suggest you get to it, because I’ve never been happier that a novel is the first in a trilogy!

It’s definitely a book I recommend. An easy read, an entertaining plot that consistently gets better chapter by chapter, and characters of so many shades of grey you lose count!

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