Full Review : The Cruel Prince (The Folk Of The Air #1) by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air)

Author : Holly Black
Publisher : Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Series : The Folk of the Air
Volume : #1 of 3
Year Published : 2018
Genre : YA, Fantasy, Fairies / Fae
Formats : Paperback, Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 370 pages


Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


I like the juxtaposition of a visually beautiful and colorful fairy land that is also dangerous and hateful. The human main character belongs to an underclass in a world of beautiful fairies and Alice In Wonderland-style creatures. Her life and even her personality is in danger of being warped or snuffed out by them. The world here is surprisingly inspired and distinctive. The mix of alluring and awful is explored in most of the characterization with how the cast relates to the heroine, Jude.

The cruel prince for which the book is named hates her but is captivated by her. Her father (who is revealed in the first chapter to be a murderous kidnapper) is, in a complex way, doting.

Her little brother should by all means be cruel and violent toward the mortals he lives with after being raised in this environment and fathered by a monster, yet he is one of the most pure and sweet characters. 

I adore this sort of thing, having characters with conflicting shades that can’t be processed too simply. Even Jude herself battles with a sort of mealy-mouthed weakness but also has a desire to work her way to the top within that impossible culture and hierarchy and be accepted as strong. That said, I felt like the attitudes and ways of the world were a little too human-like. Rather than seeing the fae as otherworldly, I mainly saw them as mean and annoying variations of humans.

The heavy transitions seemed clumsily handled, if ambitious. Jude transition from kind of helpless to strong and cunning was kind of abrupt. The enemies-to-lovers slow burn (super slow burn, barely there) romance wasn’t as natural as it could be.

For a book like this that does have good ideas behind the characters, it was unfortunate to find the actual conversations between characters to be less than gripping. I am mainly here for character interactions and those seemed stilted and lacking in flavor. Also, I became tired with the amount of time spent on Jude being tormented.

Cinder (from the Lunar Chronicles series) has similar issues. Imagine if in Harry Potter, Harry spent another hundred pages with the Dursleys at the beginning of the first book. That’s what the longer, earlier portions felt like. But hopefully the sequel shouldn’t dwell on such things. This volume ends on a high note that builds a lot of enthusiasm for the sequel.

Overall, I was very engaged while reading despite all those issues. I flew through this book very fast, so I would classify it as skillfully written all things considered. The prose is denser (but honestly, more substantial) than a lot of other fantasy YA out there and yet the pace didn’t suffer. Definitely open to reading more books in this series. There is potential.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10

Why You Should Try It – The whimsical world of fae provides a lot of inspiring imagery. The writing style is fast-moving but has some substance. Jude is stronger than a lot of YA heroines out here. Shades-of-grey characters. Ending has a lot of potential, I have high expectations for the sequel. The quite slowly emerging romance has enemies-to-lovers if you’re into that sort of thing.

Critique – I found a lot of the dialogue between characters to not be very compelling or charming. While I enjoyed the character complexity, there aren’t many traditionally likable figures here. While this book is nowhere near romance-centric, the love interest is, well, cruel.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) (Amazon Link)

Many thanks to all who read my review! Are you interested in this series or have you read it before? Do you have any additional questions or comments? If so, let me know your thoughts, I appreciate all likes and comments very much.

Happy reading,


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