Saturday 25 May 2019

#CBR11 Book 22: "The Wicked King" by Holly Black

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! You really don't want to start this book without having read the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince. It's also pretty much impossible for me to review this book without spoiling parts of the first book, so if you're not caught up, skip this review until you are. Seriously, even the book summary from Goodreads is pretty revealing. Look away now or suffer the consequences.

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Welcome back to another instalment of Malin tries her best to review something she read literally months ago. Luckily for me, Holly Black's writing is vivid enough to stick in my memory. By now, I will read anything Ms. Black writes and this dark, twisted, complicated series is just getting better and better.

Our Jude is learning that she should probably have been careful what she wished for. Having outsmarted not only her ruthless foster father (the man who also murdered her parents, then raised her and her twin as his own), the faerie general, but all the other power hungry fey, Jude is the Court Seneschal and King Cardan's right hand woman. In fact, unbeknownst to anybody but the two of them, he's unable to refuse any of her direct commands and she's pretty much having to rule Faerie, all the while trying to fend of real and imagined threats to the crown and her own position.

While being a powerless human on the outskirts of court life, Jude is now forced to wrangle the spiteful and unwilling king, his council and figure out how to keep the kingdom safe until her younger brother Oak is old enough to rule in his own right. Her foster father isn't speaking to her anymore, she detests the man her sister is marrying, despite all their animosity in public, she finds herself ever more attracted to King Cardan, with the terrifying possibility that he may return the attraction. There is more than one faction threatening war, most notably the Undersea kingdoms, who are not happy with the way things are being run under Jude's "administration".

The first book started slow and spent a lot of time on build up. This book throws you straight into the action, starting about six months after Jude's audacious coup at the end of the last one. I had very few expectations as to where the story would take me, but still ended up surprised on more than one occasion. While Cardan was pretty much awful all the way through The Cruel Prince, Jude (and the readers) spend a lot more time alone with him in this book and we come to understand more about his lonely upbringing at the Court and the factors that may have made him the man he's become. Despite myself, I cannot help but be won over by the strange chemistry between them, and hope against hope that there is some sort of happy ending for Jude and her twisted faerie prince.

I also very rarely do mental casting when I read, but throughout the book, the only one I could picture as "playing" Cardan was Hale Appleman from The Magicians. Both in looks and demeanour, he just screamed Cardan to me, and as he's probably one of the most interesting characters on the show, the mental casting didn't hurt my further enjoyment of the book in the slightest. Do I have any mental casting for anyone else in the story? Nope.

Holly Black really likes to put her protagonists through the wringer, but it's almost ridiculous the horrible things she has Jude suffer both in the first book and this one. For those of you who don't like cliffhanger endings, you may want to wait until November, when the final book in the trilogy comes out, because once again, the ending of this book is a doozy. I cannot wait to see where the story goes next.

Judging a book by its cover: On the previous cover, the crown is up a tree, here it is sinking down into the blue water, with sinister shadows lurking at the bottom. The title of the book is also almost submerged. It's a striking cover that fits well with the story inside, but I don't want to say too much about it because it would ruin some of the surprises.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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