Honestly, this was a good book that left me in a haze after finishing it, and I totally felt motivated to read it in one short sitting (which I did!) Hell knows the cast is full of complete assholes though, and I want to pummel all of them into the ground, especially the titular Prince Carden.
This is the only way Jude/Carden is an okay ship and if you don’t understand it, you are a better man than me.
I didn’t really know quite what I was getting into with this book, I’ve never read Holly Black, and honestly at the dedication (to my blood oath rival cassandra claire!) I was a little turned off. It’s a great book though, engaging, cool, sick, neat, whatever.
It does appeal to the whole ‘dark antihero fantasy murder-queen’ trope that YA is currently loving (see: sarah j maas books, red queen, as I darken, etc), but I’ll gripe my thoughts on that later.
Jude and her sister Tamryn (or so, don’t ask me how that’s pronounced) were taken to fairyland when they were seven after their parents were murdered. The exact reasoning is a bit complex but checks out. Anyways, they grow up among the fey despite being mortal, and both have to adapt to a hostile world they’ll never be part of.
Story wise, we follow Jude (first person). She wants to be a knight to prove herself and earn a permanent place in the court, and the respect of the fey- but that doesn’t go as planned. She’s harassed at every turn by some Mean Kids and the ever-key ‘cruel prince’, the youngest of six fey royals who is just a real bitch, a serious hooligan, what an asshat. Jude pledges her way to outdo him at every turn and earn power and her place as a mortal among fey.
The world building is really good. At times it felt a bit ‘expected’- a lot of nice dresses, fancy things, magic, and people drinking/having orgies. But I’ve never read a fey thing before, so the lots of rules, world, enviroment, monsters… all of it was immersive and interesting to follow. Courtly stuff has always interested me, even if I lack the patience to learn it properly, and seeing that code of law/honor interact with supernatural beings really does appeal to me.
The writing and building is quite good and suppliments things well.
Characters AKA “CROW’S BEATDOWN CORNER”
Jude as a lead is hard to like. Everyone else is worse though, which is tricky, but at least Jude is someone you can usually, kinda root for. She has a lot of drive and determination, and is an active protagonist. She clearly values her own honor as well as her sisters and her family, and has a complex relationship with her adopted father/the fey who killed her parents, as well as with all of the fey itself. She’s enchanted by the world, but is all too keen that she’s mortal and doesn’t belong. I kinda wish, as sometimes happens, she could just leave all this nonsense behind, but I get her reasoning and determination to stay as well.
As this is part of the ‘DARK FANTASY’ wave, Jude gets progressively more dramatic. She starts killing people without care, and starts to lose the vulnerabilities that made her seem real. Before, she is a determined student who wants to prove herself- it makes sense she is best in class knowledge wise, and a skilled swordsman. Even though later in the book she’s still learning new techniques and improving (and doesn’t prove unbeatable), she at a certain point… hardens. I don’t know, I guess for all my love of morally grey characters, the casualness she takes to killing did not appeal to me. She seemed a little too fixed on power and subjugation, and I didn’t feel some of it was a natural enough leap.
Jude has two sisters, her human twin Tamryn, and her fey half-sister Vivienne. Tamryn got a bit weird as the book went on, from ‘I understand who she is’ to ‘what is going on’- but I guess that mirrors Jude, who also learns a lot about her sister she didn’t know. Like Jude, she follows the trail of ‘people I want to punch’, and god knows I mildly hated her by the end.
Vivi, meanwhile, is one of two characters I would like to spare (other being a child, who did nothing wrong). She’s a cool older sister who has frustrations with her family but still loves them, and is both understanding and moody. She hates the fey world and doesn’t understand why her sisters want to stay, but loves them, and stays because of that. She also has a human girlfriend. Honestly, Vivi was the real ‘I can feel comfortable and happy’ part of the book.
Her adopted father Murloc is also low on my punch list, despite being the closest we have to a solid ‘villain’. Even Jude, luckily, doesn’t have the heart to kill him, but has very complicated feelings about him. I do too! He’s very well written and the most understandable character, I think a good example of slightly evil/dark fantasy/morally grey.
Carden is a trash bag of newly born maggots and I’m not saying this in some ‘oh I hate-love him hehe 🙂 way.’ From the first introduction, he’s a little bitch, and I am right with Jude hating him. The trouble is, you know from the whole concept he’s the love interest. Of course he’s going to be. Never though have I seen a less appealing twerp. He’s a bully who seeks only to humiliate, upstage, upset, and hurt Jude (and like, everyone else). We get some development on him, but it’s a lot of ‘cool motive, still a dick’.
What bothers me about Carden is that his foulness is something half forgotten by the end, as Jude starts to have weird sexual tension with him. Which, yes, is due to plot stuff: but the terrifying knowledge they will be together by the end of this goddamn trilogy bothers me. It’s a terribly unhealthy and toxic relationship on both their parts, but especially since he’s the one with the power most of the time, and is a proper sadist who likes to watch her suffer. That’s not… a good set up for romance. I don’t want this guy to be someone Jude falls in some weird love with- I want him to be stranged. By me. Until he dies.
It also helps perpetuate that notion that a boy who’s a jerk to you is only doing it because he likes you- literally, what happens in this book, as Carden reveals a fascination with Jude and clear attraction/feelings. It’s just gross and uncomfortable. I like the idea of a wild, crazy prince who can kind of be a jerk- it’s the bad boy archtype, it’s a trope for a reason- but Carden crosses the line from ‘rude fun’ to ‘straight up abusive’. Even if Jude is fighting back, it’s not healthy in the slightest.
Last complaint zone about punching: Locke. Ya bitch. I know, dark fantasy, aka ‘no one is allowed to have nice things’, but still, I’m just pissed off at him and the story. Is it so much to ask for a nice guy? A nice love interest who might be a bit weird/mysterious/standoffish, but you know, doesn’t hurt the protagonist? Locke was so enjoyable, cute, and a bresh of fresh air, until, you know, he wasn’t.
F—king dark fantasy.
The book is for sure engaging, interesting, and fun. Cool world, solid worldbuilding, lots of interesting court/royal/fey stuff… well written, too. The romance part makes me want to tear my hair out, and the whole cast being complete assholes can make you weary. There’s still plenty of good, and I’ll probs be picking up the next book. The quesion of if I take the third is entirely up to the factor of ‘fuck you Carden’ I can put up with.