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*

  1. I’m going to keep this as spoiler free as possible because:
  2. I was not given an embargo date for the review and it doesn’t come out until January
  3. 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!
  4. 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 give credence to the sharp wit and banter that awaits you in Faerie.

The lifeblood of inspired stories included antagonists that we love to hate and protagonists that were flawed enough 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. The same can be said when creating a protagonist that is the hero we can still see ourselves in- good but not perfect. Starting in the Cruel Prince and carrying forward in The Wicked King Holly Black looks at some of the modern examples of what these characters should be and says *hold my faerie wine*.


It is another stratosphere altogether when you create an antagonist like Cardan who you hate in the first book but have Locke to rest your affections in for most of the book. However, by the end of the book that dynamic has completely changed. Then up the ante with a protagonist of purest motive and absolute intent beyond reproach. That is until she betrays the antagonist and there for sends him reeling because she is the sole reason for his gaining any shred of humanity during his character arc in the Cruel Prince. Five months later we land in The Wicked King.

Your protagonist? Jude. Antagonist? Cardan. Both a seething cauldron of attraction, mistrusting affection. And for a year and a day, tied at the hip in a battle of the wits, a fight for preservation, sanity, and their hearts. It makes it impossible to know just who you are rooting for throughout the book. 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. And everyone is so busy protecting themselves from both perceived threats based on nothing but their own paranoia and actual threats based in some semblance of reality that even the Court of Shadows is too busy running around with no real direction to proactively protect anything.

Is it any wonder that #emotionalflailing sets in for us, for the characters (don’t expect time to breathe, the characters sure don’t), and 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).

emotional flailing

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.”

Then Jude just a few moments later… who is already #emotionallyflailing because who wouldn’t be…

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

<Jude is> 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, always. 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 plan was – to protect the throne for Oak. We will watch her, and Cardan battle each other to either find a way to 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 doesn’t help a whole lot in the hope department…The Queen of Nothing… 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 set 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 give such an easy answer for our hearts. Her characters, climax and ultimate resolutions aren’t that clean cut. Hold your faerie wine close because when this trilogy wraps-up, it will be a complicated knock-out fight between good and evil, heartbreak and joy where neither wins outright.

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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