The Wicked King by Holly Black
From Goodreads: 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.
It’s happened to me a fair few times now, where I haven’t been so impressed with the first book in a series, only to push on because I’ve heard such good things, and then the second book has turned out to be amazing. I did the same with Rebel of the Sands, and then again with A Court of Thorns and Roses. Sometimes, a series just gets better as it matures.
This is certainly the case for my experience with the Folk of the Air series. I wasn’t all that keen on The Cruel Prince when Netgalley sent me an ARC of it and I was a bit surprised at the level of hype surrounding it. Black has written some spectacular fiction, and she is firmly one of my favourite YA authors, but I just wasn’t convinced this was her best release. I would still urge readers to check out her brilliant White Cat novel but now I guess I am also jumping on the bandwagon of excitement for this series too.
Because this novel had everything I was hoping from a Holly Black Faerie novel. Lots of intrigue, plenty of betrayal, lots of funny little one liners and dark magic and heart pounding romance. After a considerable reading slump, this is exactly the kind of book that I wanted in my hands. Because the pacing is just phenomenal and even though it feels like very little happened over the course of the book, it still somehow managed to grab me and keep me hooked from the get go. I was desperate to find out how well Jude managed to maintain her grip on Cardan and the throne, as well as what he might be doing to trick her into giving up control. I liked seeing Jude wrestle with her desire for power, and although there were moments where she was seriously vicious, I enjoyed seeing that complexity to her character that I either missed or didn’t get in the previous novel.
As much as I liked Jude more this time around, Cardan is clearly the centre of attention here. I loved loved LOVED every scene with him in, particularly the moments where he wrestled with his desire for Jude. That hit me so hard in the feels. I am an absolute sucker for hate to love romance, or even just casual hate romance [I know it is problematic, but come on] and so I was delighted to get more of this steaminess in The Wicked King. Also, the way it ends has me desperately pining for the next book in the series, so I really don’t think Black has done a bad job here at all.
As always, I was a big fan of the way fairytales and mythology are so seamlessly interwoven in Holly Black’s writing. Every little detail, such as knots in hair, is so well done, that I can’t help but feel joy every time I get to open one of her books and return to the world she has created. Even when I wasn’t a big fan of the plot, the magic and the little nods towards her other series [hello Roiben and Kaye] have kept me trudging along, eager for more. It’s a very impressive gift, and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next. The ending of this book is very unfair. I won’t give it away but it was one of the biggest cliffhangers I’ve seen in YA for a while and I honestly wanted to throw the book across the room in abject fury at the thought of having to wait another year or so for the next in the series.
So well done, Holly Black. You win. Please take my soul now. It might be a bit shattered and broken thanks to your writing, but I will happily exchange it to find out what happens next. Also, overall I’m giving The Wicked King a full 10/10 stars. I wasn’t a massive fan of The Cruel Prince and I almost skipped this series entirely, but boy oh boy did it get better.
Has anyone else read this book or plans to? What did you all think of it? Please feel free to share any comments in the section below ❤