The Cruel PrinCe

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased 2 Jan­uary 372 pages | Hard­back/ebook Au­thor Holly Black Pub­lisher Hot Key Books

Few au­thors cap­ture the es­sen­tial strange­ness of fairies – vis­ual artists of­ten do a bet­ter job. This novel con­tains all the things you’d ex­pect in a YA story, from the slightly so­cially awk­ward hero­ine (the hu­man Jude, who was taken with her twin and her part-Faerie half-sis­ter to live with said sis­ter’s father) to a school set­ting where that hero­ine fails to get on with the cool, mean kids, to rather a lot about clothes… so it’s to Holly Black’s credit that she is able to in­fuse it all with a sense of weird­ness.

And the con­ven­tional el­e­ments play sec­ond fid­dle to a much more in­ter­est­ing story as Jude gets drawn into spy­ing for one of the princes of Faerie, and from there be­comes em­broiled in court in­trigue, un­cov­er­ing the truth about a long-ago mur­der. It’s more sat­is­fy­ing than a lot of YA; Jude is a more com­plex hero­ine than many. In her de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep her­self safe, she proves not only head­strong, but ex­tremely ma­nip­u­la­tive, and while you never lose sym­pa­thy with her, you won’t al­ways like her. The older char­ac­ters have ac­tual per­son­al­i­ties rather than be­ing flat author­ity fig­ures for the younger ones to bounce off.

To­wards the end the feel­ing of the strange­ness of fairies rather gets lost, and there’s a sense that none of the other char­ac­ters are ca­pa­ble of act­ing – all that re­mains is for Jude to un­cover things – but it’s an en­joy­able read nonethe­less. Miriam McDon­ald

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