Book Review: “The Wicked King” by Holly Black

Around this time last year, MuggleNet reviewed The Cruel Prince, the first book in The Folk of the Air series by young adult author Holly Black. We were immediately swept into the world of Faerie and the intrigue of the Faerie Court, and we were left desperately wanting to know what came next for Jude.

Black has done it again, dropping anxious fans back into Faerie to see the results of Jude’s plotting to save her brother from the deadly machinations of her adoptive father and the heavy burden of becoming the High King.

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.

I have realized in the last year that I have come to expect the expected when reading new books. The same stories, the same tropes, the same plot twists you can see from miles away.

That is not the case with Holly Black and her Faerie series. Black writes her characters with intelligence and guile, only allowing the reader to see what she wants them to see, when she wants them to see it and not a second before. Beyond the world and rules of Faerie, which I find completely refreshing and fascinating, Black challenges her readers to experience that world exactly as Jude experiences it. The urgency to keep newly-crowned Cardan in control while she fights her growing feelings for him; the intense search for the traitor in her midst; the tug of sentimentality that leads Jude to mending fences with her twin sister; and the need to protect her brother – I felt all of those things and more as I eagerly drank in each page of this book.

In addition to the High Court of Faerie, we are introduced to another part of Faerie only hinted at in the first book – the Undersea. Nicasia becomes a real thorn in Jude’s side throughout the book, as Nicasia’s mother, Queen Orlagh, attempts to leverage the now-broken peace treaty to make her daughter the new Queen of Faerie in a bid for power over the entire land.

A lot happens in this book, much of which I simply cannot tell you without spoiling the whole plot. I found myself moved by the continuation of Jude’s story, outraged by actions of some of the characters, and a bit betrayed by the author as I read the final pages. All of these feelings have left me in an even more anxious state than when I had finished The Cruel Prince last year and needed to know how Jude’s story was going to play out.

Now we’re the ones waiting a year and a day for the third and final installment in Jude’s tale.

What a cruel Faerie trick, Holly Black.

Don’t forget to send us Queen of Nothing to review, because we can’t wait to see what happens next!

A copy of The Wicked King was provided by the publisher, Little, Brown, for review.