Thursday 26 December 2019

#CBR11 Book 92: "The Queen of Nothing" by Holly Black

Page count: 300 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! This is the third and final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. Don't read this review if you haven't read the previous two book, it's impossible to review the story without mentioning events from earlier. If you want to start the series at the beginning (since the series is completed now), The Cruel Prince is the first book.

Official book description:
"He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne."

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

Jude is going stir crazy exiled from the Faerie Realm and while she claims to hate Cardan for his actions and betrayal of her, she also can't stop thinking about him constantly. She spends most of her time hiring herself out to fae who are living in the human realm, and foolhardy as ever, nearly gets herself killed fighting an exiled faerie general. As she's patching up her wounds, her duplicitous twin sister Taryn comes to see her, confessing that she's now a widow, having killed the spiteful Locke and begging Jude to sneak into Faerie, and appear at the tribunal masquerading as Taryn. Jude is immune to faerie glamour and can lie to her heart's content. She can pretend to be Taryn and deny all wrong-doing, thus clearing her sister's name.

Of course, nothing is ever easy. When Jude shows up at the Faerie Court, dressed and made up as her sister, she might fool everyone else, but not the king himself, who would know his mortal bride whatever she wears. When they are alone in his chambers, Cardan tries to explain his plan and why he actually exiled Jude, but before he is able to set the record straight, Jude (as Taryn) is "rescued" by some of the stolen forces now loyal to her foster father Madoc and taken far away from the Court, to Madoc's rebel camp. Jude goes from the possible frying pan into the fire, surrounded by all sides by people loyal to the man bent on usurping Cardan, and as a result, Jude herself, from the Throne of Faerie.

Forced to keep impersonating her gentler, more lady-like sister in the presence of the people who raised them, Jude realises she needs to escape before her deception is discovered. If Madoc discovers that she is actually married to Cardan, he won't hesitate to use that as leverage in his attempts to usurp the throne. Of course, still angry at the way Jude once betrayed him to put Cardan on the throne in the first place, Madoc may not even wait to question Jude, but just kill her instantly. While plotting her escape, Cardan is once more never far from Jude's thoughts, she sure spends a whole lot of time obsessing over someone she claims to hate and despise.

This is by far the shortest volume of the trilogy, and I can't help but think that Holly Black may have hurried to finish it before it was entirely ready. Considering the deeply problematic and antagonistic relationship between Cardan and Jude in the first book, which certainly developed into something more interesting in the second, she really could have given the readers a bit more time with the characters actually together, selling Cardan's personal growth and literal change of heart towards the girl he tormented so cruelly for so long. I can absolutely believe that two people who hate each other intensely and with good reason can become passionate lovers (it's a popular trope for a reason), but it's nice when you get to see proof of the relationship changing, not just get it presented to you as a finished process. Cardan's declaration of love is really rather swoon-inducing, but I would still have liked some more time with him and Jude together and talking, not constantly separated by the plot, apparently having fallen for one another and forgiving and forgetting the past while pining for the other.

The curse that complicates matters is pretty cool, but may have been solved a little bit too quickly and easily. This book is nearly a hundred pages shorter than the first book in the series, and as someone who really loves Holly Black's twisted visions of faerieland and the dark romances she creates, I could have done with a standard length novel as the conclusion this series. 

Judging a book by its cover: I think all the books in this trilogy have had fitting and gorgeous covers, but this final one is my favourite of the lot. All the elements on the cover fit perfectly (can't really explain why without spoiling important parts of the plot) and the use of the various colours and items to draw the eyes - this is one of my favourite covers of the year.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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