Review of The Wicked King by Holly Black


The Wicked King, Holly Black’s Sequel to The Cruel Prince, Comes Out Jan. 8th, 2019

*Spoiler Free*

I’m going to keep this as spoiler free as possible because:

  1. I was not given an embargo date for the review and it doesn’t come out until January
  2. How I even ended up with the honor of receiving this ARC through Edelweiss and Little, Brown and Company in return for an honest review is still beyond my understanding– Thank you!
  3. Due to the fandom of this series and their need for information that doesn’t kill the read, I’m going to do my best to keep it a spoil-free faerie fruit.

There will be one or two quotes- but they will be general in nature and won’t give anything away–but still give credence to the sharp wit and banter that awaits you in Faerie.

The lifeblood of inspired stories includes antagonists that we love to hate and protagonists that are flawed enough for us to relate to. Creating villains so demonically evil that we could hate them without question but come back to their antics time and again takes a scalpel not an ax to create.

Similarly it can be said when creating a protagonist that is heroic but not perfect. Starting in the Cruel Prince and carrying forward in The Wicked King, Holly Black smirks at the finest modern examples of these tropes and says *hold my faerie wine*.


First… a quick recap of The Cruel Prince 

Jude, Cardan and the cast of characters in the Wicked King are in a stratosphere altogether. Creating an antagonist like Cardan a hateful, spiteful, vengeful waste of faerie just to have his story arc upended by Jude, a human he tortures for most of the book, just to fall in love with her is wrenching. To then have to get through the end of the Cruel Prince, as Cardan’s very being completely change because of this dynamic with the protagonist, Jude? It is fit for a happy ending. Beautiful. Poor child. You haven’t met Holly Black, have you? Neither have I, but I know enough to know better because…

Then Holly Black yells *PLOT TWIST* .

And Jude, dear Jude <cue the Beatles> betrays Cardan and sends him reeling as she was the sole reason for gaining any shred of humanity throughout his story arc in the Cruel prince. Suddenly, you are thrust into this upside down, Stranger Things world, where you can’t help but feel empathy for the character you were set-up to hate, and disgust for the character you were set-up to root for throughout the entire book.

This brings us to the Wicked Prince… five months later. 

And we start all over again.

Your protagonist? Jude. Antagonist? Cardan. And if you thought Cardan was .. well you  know.. before? Well… he’s brought it to a whole new level. Mind you this hasn’t stopped the sparks from flying.

Both are still knee deep in a seething cauldron of attraction, mistrusting affection. To make it worse, because of their deal at the end of the Cruel Prince, they are quite literally tied at the hip for a year and a day. This on-going battle of the wits, fight for preservation, sanity, and their hearts makes it impossible to know just who you are rooting for throughout the book. At least in the Cruel Prince you knew for most of the book where to pitch the loyalty tent. I suggest you just buy a Winnebago while reading The Wicked King.

emotional flailing

In the beginning you think it is an obvious decision. Don’t be so sure. From plot point to twisty plot point you will change your mind. I promise. You will shock yourself.

And through all of it … Who is protecting Faerie, I ask you? There are threats coming from all sides. No one is safe. Everyone is so busy protecting themselves from both perceived threats based and actual threats rooted in some semblance of reality that even the Court of Shadows is too busy running around aimlessly to do any real good.

Is it any wonder that #emotionalflailing sets in for the reader, for the characters (don’t expect time to breathe, the characters sure don’t), or for all of Faerie. I had to remind myself I was reading from a laptop and couldn’t launch the book across the room (like watching a hockey game, reading a great book can often become a contact sport for me and scare the cats).

Not surprisingly the O.M.G moments come mostly out of the blue (there were a couple I saw coming but most of them left me gasping, yelping and grabbing for wine). The ending fed the cats (i.e. I puked a kidney). In one of Holly Black’s true talents, she not only maintained the level of wit and banter between all the characters (Faeries are one sarcastic, snarky bunch of cheeky monkeys, aren’t they- and I love it), but she doubled down on it. Without losing any of the dramatics, climactic plot points or somber moments, Ms. Black lets it come fast and furious.

Cardan: For a moment, I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.
Jude: And what made you decide it wasn’t? He grins up at me. “They missed.”


A character to be named later: “You don’t understand…….She wants us to be married”

Jude: I was so surprised that for a moment I just stare at her fighting down a kind of wild, panicky laughter. “YOU JUST SHOT HIM”.

However, when Jude returns to Cardan she tells him not of this conversation or anything she’s learned. And while we would all like to think the best of Jude. Just as we would always like to think the best of ourselves… well if I had my supervisors job… or if I was head of X… we would like to think we would hold true to our ethics, the greater good.

We will watch Jude fight between the feelings of power that bubble up after being tortured, her parents being murdered and the idea of revenge on those that caused it, versus what her original plan was in The Cruel Prince: to protect the throne for Oak. We will watch her and Cardan battle each other to either find a way to each other (which is what we all want for them) or to the death… the cliffhanger will leave you reeling, suffocating and bewildered.

Being we all know the title of the third book is The Queen of Nothing, it isn’t a spoiler, nor any comfort. It doesn’t help a whole lot in the hope department. So I leave you with the below.


But if there’s nothing to rule.. is there a Queen? And which queen is the title referring to, after all? There are so many people, places and things (OH MY!) that title can allude to. I can only hope that no matter what may come, Jude is able to hold onto her moral compass, her original plans to protect her family and do what she always sets out to do: best the Faeries and help Cardan find a better version of himself along the way.

However, Holly Black is a better writer than to put such a neat little bow and give us such an easy ending to ease our hearts. Her characters, climax and ultimate resolutions have yet to be that clean cut.

Hold your faerie wine close because when this trilogy wraps-up, I believe (none of us know, but going on history) it will be a complicated knock-out fight between good and evil, heartbreak, and joy. Neither will win out right.

One thought on “Review of The Wicked King by Holly Black

  1. Pingback: Top Tuesday: Books/Series that Led Me to a Novel Life – Novel Lives

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