Title: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air 2)
Author: Holly Black
Published: January 2019
Readership: Young Adult
RRP: $19.99 AUD
I received a copy of The Wicked King from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The enchanting and bloodthirsty sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince.
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
Dramatic and thrilling fantasy blends with contemporary storytelling to create a fully realised world, filled with magic, politics and treachery.
Everyone calls Holly Black the Faerie Queen, and reading The Wicked King (and The Cruel Prince) it’s easy to see why. As an author, she clearly knows her world, is passionate about it and the characters and creatures that reside within it, and uses all of that to build up a fast-paced tale that is all about power and control.
The Cruel Prince was a smash-hit in the young adult market in 2018, and a book that I very much enjoyed because it moved away from the sometimes-glossed-over image of the fae and focused on the darker side – power, control, disdain for humans and all the traits that make a story complicated and interesting to read about. We were introduced to Jude, a human who had been raised in Faerie, who’d been tormented by the fae from childhood and who was quietly clever and canny and determined not to be broken by the land or its people. Throughout the course of that book she became ruthless and elevated herself to a station no-one thought a human capable of doing by the end of the story, and marked Jude as a character to watch because for all her political manoeuvring, she was still naive and her hold over power was tenuous at best.
That’s where The Wicked King begins.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the story for me was Jude herself. She’s not my favourite character in the series, but being the main protagonist, we stay with her story the whole way through, and so it was interesting to see her develop, grow and change over the course of the second book was an interesting character study. Her growth is not always forward-growth – it’s a bit like the saying one step forward, two steps back; she’s always scrambling to be ahead of the politics and power hungry fae and she’s not always sure of what that looks like, or what she needs to do next.
Her relationship with Cardan, now King of Faerie, is complicated and certainly not built on trust, and she’s burnt a lot of the relationships she had with people, so for this book, she’s almost entirely alone for the whole book. This in itself makes for an interesting dynamic whenever she interacts with anyone, and leaves her more vulnerable than she believes.
The story itself is fast-paced and easy to navigate. It didn’t take long to remember the players or the world even though I haven’t reread The Cruel Prince since last year. It’s a compelling dark-fantasy, young adult story that will appeal to fans of the genre and the ending – perhaps my absolute favourite part of the story itself – left it wide open for the next book.