📚 The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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The Folk of the Air, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jan. 2018

Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Length: 12 hours 36 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2018

SynopsisBy number-one New York Times best-selling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

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 years old 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.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war 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.

5★ Audiobook⎮I enjoyed every single second of this audiobook. From start to finish, The Cruel Prince was the kind of wild ride I’ve come to expect from Holly Black. Just thinking back on it makes my head want to explode. My tiny human brain can’t handle all of the faerie awesomeness. Even while listening to it, I couldn’t string together in the right words to describe the amazingness of what I was hearing.

The Cruel Prince was easily the best audiobook I’ve heard in a very long time. It was the last thing I heard before falling asleep at night and the first thing I turned on in the morning. I didn’t want it to end.

Story-wise, I was riveted. The atmospheric setting was highly reminiscent of The Darkest Part of the Forest, but better because almost all of it took place in the faerie world. Before hearing The Cruel Prince, The Darkest Part of the Forest had been my favorite tale from Holly Black. I’ve heard several other of her titles, but this was better than them all. Holly Black obviously knows that she excels at writing faerie stories. She’s also creative enough to be able to stick with the subject without giving the impression of stagnation.

While I prefer the plot of The Cruel Prince, I do think there were a few things Black did better in The Darkest Part of the Forest. When reviewing The Darkest Part of the Forest, I praised Black’s ability to create such a multi-dimensional main character in Hazel. Hazel was an ordinary teenage girl during the day and a Fae warrior at night. By contrast, The Cruel Prince’s protagonist Jude felt more one dimensional. In The Cruel Prince, it seemed as though Black split the characteristics of Hazel into two separate characters, the twins Jude and Taryn. I believe doing so flattened each twin into a less dynamic and less interesting YA trope. I disliked Taryn, tolerated Jude, and adored Hazel.

Taryn was the most stereotypical of the sisters and I began to dislike her increasingly as the sisterly bond was sacrificed at the expense of the plot. Having a boy come between two sisters seemed so unoriginal and overplayed. I can see where that sub plot is leading because I’ve seen it so many times before. But that was the only part of Black’s tale that dared to disappoint me. If the character of Taryn was flat and shallow, Cardan was a layered onion.

I will admit that I judged Cardan completely wrong. I’ve never bought into the whole “boy pulls girl’s pigtail because he likes her” thing– seriously, don’t teach your little girls to put up with that– but Holly Black gave us a valid underlying cause for his behavior. Once I understood his situation, it put his behavior into perspective. It still didn’t excuse it, mind you, and I hope the issue continues to be addressed later in the series. But it’s the equivalent of “boy pulls girl’s pigtail because he likes her and doesn’t know how to appropriately handle such feelings because he has never been shown affection”. See the difference?

Holly Black has addressed psychological abuse in a story about faeries. It’s not a fairytale, it’s a tale about faeries. In my opinion, Holly Black is redefining this section of the genre and we are all benefiting from it. Fantasy genre, this should be the bar to which you all try to measure up.

I know it’s only January, but this may end up being one of my favorite books I hear this year. I’m partially devastated that I’ll have to wait until 2019 for the sequel, but I also know that it will be more than worth the wait.

Narration review: I’ve heard (and interviewed) Caitlin Kelly before, but never like this. Caitlin, congratulations on being able to lend your amazing voice and talents to such an incredible story! Tonally, Caitlin was a perfect match for a faerie story. Her voice has this light, airy quality typically associated with the fae and fantasy, in general.

Kelly’s characters completely hit the mark. I particularly loved her voicing of Oak, the young fae child. She also gave appropriate distinction to Jude and Taryn. The differences in their personalities really came through in the audiobook in a way that should make traditional book readers envious. And Cardan’s emotional depth was intensified to the max. It’s performances like this that make me so grateful to be an audiobook listener. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com


  1. I’ve been toying with the idea of whether or not I should read this one. If I do, I’ll check out the audiobook! Sometimes there’s just certain narrators that work perfectly for the tone of the book, and it sounds like Caitlin Kelly did a marvelous job!

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