When nothing you’ve read lately has been engaging you and reading starts to feel like a chore, what do you do? One tried and true method is to read something by a favorite author. Luckily for me, The Wicked King, the second book in Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series, recently came out. And let me tell you, I absolutely ate it up.
The book starts a few months after the first one, The Cruel Prince, left off, with protagonist Jude Duarte struggling to maintain control over Cardan, the newly-crowned High King, and thus, all of Faerie itself. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, Jude also has to deal with her sister’s upcoming wedding to a guy who toyed with her heart, and a growing threat from the neighboring Sea Folk. Jude is one busy girl, and her jam-packed schedule made me feel her exhaustion. I wanted to tuck her into bed and let her sleep for sixteen hours, but there’s no time for that in Elfhame, where the inhabitants are just as likely to kill you as they are to wave hello.
What makes this book so gripping is that there’s no shortage to the problems Jude faces. How can she, a human teenager, keep control of a kingdom of immortal beings? Whom can she trust when said beings are known for being crafty and loyal only to themselves? How can she keep her loved ones, and herself, alive?
My favorite part of the book involves Jude in the clutches of Orlag, the queen of the Undersea. Jude has grown up in Elfhame and knows that faeries are cruel in their apathy when it comes to humans. She also knows how their power to enchant works, and she uses it to her advantage in order to survive. In the end, she’s able to convince Orlag that she’s thoroughly enchanted and willing to do the queen’s bidding, when she’s actually the one with the upper hand.
One thing I’m not quite sold on just yet is the semi-romance between Jude and Cardan. I can’t deny their chemistry is well-written, but to go from hating each other’s guts to maybe possibly secretly being in love is a foreign concept to me. Although Cardan had a hard upbringing, he’s still a jerk, and tormented Jude horribly when they were growing up. As for Jude, she literally has the power to command Cardan to do whatever she wants. The power dynamics are too unbalanced for my liking, but I’m pretty sure that’ll change in the next book. Cardan is a great character, and he’s come a long way from the one-dimensional bully he started out as in The Cruel Prince. I’m not so bold as to claim I know what Black has in store for him, but I have speculations, and his outlook is epic.
The icing on the cake comes in the form of Roiben, a character from Black’s Modern Faerie Tale series, and one of my all-time favorites. She’s stated in the FAQ on her website that she won’t be writing any more Modern Faerie Tale books, so the fact that she’s found a way to work Kaye and Roiben into the plot of her new series makes me beyond happy, even if their appearances take up only half a page. If I had the financial means to personally commission her to write about Kaye and Roiben for the rest of forever, I totally would. The girl knows what she likes, OK?
The next book in the series, The Queen of Nothing, is slated for a 2020 publication date, and I absolutely can’t wait. I have no clue as to where the plot is going from here, but I’m sure it’ll be brilliant, as Holly Black’s work always is.