The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black.
This review will be SPOILER FREE. However, since this is the final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy, the review is only going to be spoiler free for QoN. It will contain spoilers for The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. So if you haven’t read them and want to, please bookmark this page to come back to at a later date.
From Goodreads: He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.
Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.
Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.
Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.
And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…
Last year, The Queen of Nothing was one of my most anticipated reads. For some reason, I never got around to it in 2019, despite being so hyped for it, but I did finally read it last week.
And well, as you might have guessed, it was a rollercoaster.
Like most of you who read that cliffhanger at the end of The Wicked King, I just really really wanted to know how it ended. And how it started. And everything else in between. I was a little bit tense when we opened with a kind of prologue recalling Cardan’s birth and prophecy, since I just wanted to skip ahead and see what was going on with Jude. Thankfully, it’s pretty brief and beautifully written, so I got through it quickly.
It was also somewhat jarring to see Maine Jude again, rather than Faerieland Jude. Obviously, that’s expected considering Cardan banished her at the end of the last book, but it still felt super weird to see her living and existing in our real world. I was glad that this portion of the book is also over kind of fast. Not that it wasn’t interesting, but honestly I would have been pretty disappointed if the book had been mostly set in our world. As much as I love Holly’s urban fantasy, this wasn’t how I wanted to return to it.
Naturally, the descriptions and inventiveness of this series continues throughout Queen of Nothing. Part of the reason I love Holly’s work so much is because she has so many nods and allusions to fairy tales and mythology, and I thought this was beautifully wrought throughout the trilogy. You can tell there’s a lot of research gone into it, and each new sighting of a faerie creature, each new kernel of knowledge, made my toes curl with happiness.
For the most part too, the characters were a big draw for me. Jude’s ambitious nature is so great, because it really works with the story. It’s both a flaw and a boon. That she’s always grasping for more is one of the reasons I love her, and also one of the reasons I respect her character. All too often, ambitious characters come across as simply conniving and unlikeable. Somehow, Holly manages to make us cheer for Jude, even though she’s manipulative and calculating.
I was less convinced with Cardan’s character arc in this book. Obviously, I still swooned every time he graced the page, but he also didn’t seem right in this particular book. I don’t know if it’s just me, but his vicious streak was so clear in the previous books, and in this one it was just absent. I missed the political back and forth he had with Jude so much. There’s still a little bit of it in here, but it felt more like it was half-hearted. He wasn’t mean, he wasn’t clever. He was basically reduced to a Rhysand type role of a swoonworthy, protective leader who is sometimes a bit snarky. There’s a moment or two when Jude second guesses him, but in all honesty that feels forced and a bit inconsistent. There’s also the whole cliffhanger situation from TWK at the start of the novel, but again this is brushed away pretty easily by Cardan and a lot of the angst I felt when I first read that end scene was kind of pointless? I don’t know. I’m still a big fan of Cardan, but this felt like a forced character arc to make the story resolve neatly, rather than a draw back the curtain and get a real glimpse of him moment.
Overall, I’m giving The Queen of Nothing a 9/10 stars. I thought the story was well written and beautiful, and I loved seeing how Jude handled everything throughout the narrative, but I was a bit disappointed that Cardan seemed Out of Character for the majority of the book, and it felt like his character arc was forced in order to end the book.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤