The Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Holly Black
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Feb 10, 2023

Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince features Jude Duarte, a girl who was stolen from the mortal world

alongside her twin and older sister, Taryn and Vivi, by a Redcap Fae named Madoc. Years later,

Jude and Taryn now attend school among the higher ranked fae, including Prince Cardan

Greenbriar, the cruel prince of Elfhame (get it?). He and his friends, Nicasia, Valerian, and

Locke, do whatever they can to make Jude and Taryn miserable for their human heritage. The

current High King of Elfhame is in the process of choosing his successor and has dwindled his

choices down to two of his six children: Elowyn and Dain. When Dain approaches Jude offering

her a position in the Court of Shadows as a spy, she happily accepts for a geas that prevents

her from being glamoured in return. She ends up going on a few missions for him, all the while

developing a relationship with Locke, practicing mithridatism, and overcoming Cardan’s

shenanigans. At the coronation, much is revealed. Locke had been using Jude to test Taryn’s

love for him and Madoc and Balekin (Cardan’s elder brother) had been plotting together. He

ends up killing the king and all of his siblings with the exception of Cardan, who is nowhere to

be found. Together, Jude and Cardan team up to prevent Balekin from taking the throne, making

a deal that she could command him for a year and a day. When she learns a shocking truth

about her younger brother, Oak, Jude uses him to put another on the throne, with her as the


This series is probably my favorite fantasy series that centers around the fae. Holly Black takes

the phrase “morally gray” and throws it out the window, but in a fun way. Every character in this

series is selfish and cruel. Even Jude. It’s kind of like picking which villain you want to root for,

except there’s really only one option that you get to truly explore. Of course, it’s always nice to

have your run of the mill chosen one heroine, but Jude as a protagonist is honestly so

refreshing. You’re not supposed to agree with her actions, but you can’t help but cheer her on as

she outsmarts and overcomes her enemies. I love the irony the series brings where the

sweetest least-likely-to-murder-someone character is the least likable and the most hated

among readers. I think it’s probably because for all the other characters, them being horrible is a

given and expected. But for the “nice” character, their betrayal cuts deeper because they were

supposed to be the one person Jude could trust. Also they kind of just whined the whole book

without contributing anything to anyone.

I love how Jude doesn’t take anything from anyone. People can shove her and she’d shove

back, but her shove would be off a cliff. Every time someone's cruel to her, she becomes crueler.

In her own words, “If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse”. That is pretty

much the overall theme of the book if I’m being honest here. It’s one of those books you can

read again and again without ever getting bored.

Written by
Maggie S.

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