Book Review: The Cruel Prince 

A book for those that are looking for a new world to escape to and don’t mind a slow burn


The Cruel Prince is the first book in The Folk Air series, written by Holly Black. The main character, Jude, was seven years old when she watched a man murder her parents. Come to find out, the murderer is her oldest sister’s biological father. He takes Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and his daughter Vivi to his home in Elfhame. Madoc takes care of the girls and raises them as his own. He teaches Taryn and Jude how to strategize and fight. Jude takes a liking to these lessons and sets out to become a knight for the High Court of Faerie. However, the fey don’t particularly like humans. They possess the ability to charm or influence humans into doing what they want. They put mortals into a trance-like state and imprison them as their servants. Some of the food and drink in Faerie are dangerous. Although there are some precautions mortals can take, the fey never fail to make Jude feel powerless. Power becomes Jude’s motivation in life. She becomes obsessed with gaining more power and keeping her loved ones and home safe.

Upon first opening the book, I was extremely confused. After reading the prologue, the reader is propelled into a different world. Instead of giving background to the world of Faerie, the author slowly explains it throughout the story. For the most part, the book was okay. The story didn’t become interesting until about the last hundred pages. I understand that this is the first book in the series, so there was character development and world-building to be done. The fight scenes were lacking. Not a whole lot of detail was given and they seemed quite short. 

Besides the book’s shortcomings, I thought the characters, Jude in particular, were relatable. It’s explained that although Jude grew up with the fey, she feels like an outsider. However, she doesn’t want to fit in. She wants to be better than them. Soon, a group of fey begins attacking Jude and her sister. Jude wants to prove to them that she is ruthless. She lives in her anger, afraid that if fury doesn’t drive her actions, she will succumb to the fear. The fear of being controlled by the much more powerful faeries. The fear of being weak. 

Although I liked Jude as a character, the relationships in the story needed more sustenance. Jude and Madoc’s relationship is odd. I can understand having to respect him to a certain degree, and maybe even caring for him, as he is Jude’s only father figure. However, Jude barely mentions the murder, and although it happened ten years ago, I don’t feel the emotional trauma of witnessing something like that would simply go away over time. Also, I wanted to see more interaction between her brother, stepmother, and her. I feel that if we had seen them together more and understood their dynamic, it would have made the ending much better. 

The Faerie world itself is intriguing, and I would recommend the book to those that are looking for a new world to escape to and don’t mind a slow burn.