I’m thrilled to bring my second review to you after devouring the Folk of the Air series by Holly Black! The books (in order) are The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing.
Sourced from Amazon, based on the first book’s plot.
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.
I absolutely loved this series. I’m not a particularly fast reader, but I finished The Cruel Prince within a day and then (after a week of waiting for my local indie to have the other two) I finished both The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing in the same day.
The Folk of the Air series is an easy read that pulls a variety of more complex plots and themes into a lush fantasy world.
I’m a sucker for first-person narration and these books are no exception. I think I enjoyed this series even more because I that Jude was such a relatable protagonist. She’s written so well (and with a mature voice) that I often forgot she was only 17. Prince Cardan is an incredible antagonist, and I love the growth his character sees throughout the series.
The whole cast of characters were interesting, well-fleshed-out, and realistic (with the exception of Jude’s twin sister Taryn in the last book).
Honestly, I went into The Cruel Prince thinking I’d hate it because I’m not a huge “fae” fan, but the world of Faerie didn’t deter me at all. I loved almost all the settings and found descriptions to be just enough that I had a clear picture of where I was but could make my own images in my mind instead of relying on the book for every little detail.
A really well-done part I wasn’t expecting was the mortal world. Holly Black did an incredible job of describing the human world through a human who’s lived with Fae for most of her life. It gave really great mental pictures to imagine this badass protagonist who wears armor and delicate dresses and eats weird fruit/meat combinations to also shop at Target, drink coffee, and eat gummy worms.
I do think the second book’s underwater setting (“Undersea” in the book) was a bit of a letdown after a book and a half of it being talked up, but in the same vein, I get why. As Jude’s our narrator and only allowed very limited access to much of the Undersea, there wasn’t a natural way for us to learn more through her eyes.
Faerie’s rules for its inhabitants (particularly that Fae can’t lie) gave the entire series a really unique tone. While the mortal characters could straight-up lie, the rest of the cast found intricate ways to weave their words so they couldn’t lie outright but also didn’t have to fess up the whole truth if they didn’t want to. The bargains they made throughout the series are a perfect example of this.
The overarching plot(s) of the series were well-carried throughout the trilogy. While the second book felt a little like a lull to me (and set up a lot that we got “pay off” in the third book), there wasn’t a subplot mentioned that we didn’t get resolution to. It was intricate, engaging, and not easily guessable, which made each book a furious page-turner.
The only book in the series I felt had some pacing issues was The Wicked King (book two). There were a few scenes I read very quickly/skimmed because they didn’t seem to contribute to the overall plot or weren’t as engaging as the rest of the book.
In my mind, Jude and Cardan are going in the hall of “Best Enemies-to-Lovers” right next to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Their chemistry was off the charts and I felt like screaming KISS ALREADY! more than once amid all three books. The beauty of their relationship lives in the time it takes them to learn themselves, as well as each other, before they can confront their feelings toward each other.
The family relationships in this book are so important. Jude’s relationships with her sisters, as well as her murderous foster father, step-mother, and brother are all explored at different times and different depths, giving us really unique insights to the dynamics of their family. As someone who has step-siblings on both my mother’s and father’s sides, I really loved reading the dynamics of this non-nuclear family.
Random note: I don’t understand how I keep picking up books with identical twin sisters, but that’s where we are I guess? First Kingdom of the Wicked, now this, and my next, Crown of Coral and Pearl all have twins!
Buy all three books at the same time–you’ll thank me. My favorite book was The Queen of Nothing, followed closely by The Cruel Prince, and lastly The Wicked King. My favorite parts of the series were the romance and the main character’s journey to reach her goals. I found some minor parts of the series not to my liking (Jude’s twin sister’s unrealistic arc in the third book and the Undersea in the second) but those things didn’t taint my view of the trilogy as a whole.
I absolutely loved this series and recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance, fantasy, political intrigue, and complex family dynamics!