The Cruel PrinCe
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