I never know how to review books that are part of a series. I tend to only review the first book in a series and then make vague references to the following books because I don’t want to spoil anything for new readers. So I’m going to tread very lightly (and vaguely) as I review The Wicked King, the second book in a YA fantasy series by Holly Black. I read the first book The Cruel Prince about this time last year. I’ve also read other books by Holly Black including Tithe. In case you don’t know, this series is all about faeries, and the few mortals living with them, and is set in the Shifting Isles of Elfhame.
The main protagonist is a human girl named Jude. Her mother was once in a relationship with a faerie general named Madoc, but she ran away from him into the mortal world when pregnant with his child (Jude’s older sister). Jude is completely human, as is her twin sister. When Jude was a child, Madoc came and killed their mother and then took all three sisters to Elfhame. Being mortal in a faerie realm is not a good thing so Jude has had to learn to be sneaky, dangerous and as cutthroat as the faeries around her.
In the second book, The Wicked King, Jude has become the power behind the throne. She has a love/hate, mostly hate, relationship with the new faerie king and he is also enthralled and disgusted by her. You know, your typical angst-ridden “I hate you, but I love you” trope. There are lots of bloodthirsty and dangerous faerie characters to discover in this series — and lots of scheming, fighting and trickery.
I enjoy reading Holly Black’s books. Her faeries are quite mean and nasty at times and the world she creates is beautiful but sinister. I love her use of language to describe characters and settings. She makes me wish I could visit Elfhame, but I would probably only last a few hours before getting stabbed, poisoned or enchanted.
I can’t say I’m too fond of the main character Jude. She’s a flawed character just like everyone else in the book. Sometimes she’s super smart and other times she makes really dumb decisions. But she’s certainly an interesting character. As is her nemesis Cardan, who doesn’t seem to do much apart from look gorgeous, be nasty and smoulder. But that’s fine with me!
This series is pure escapism and I’ve enjoyed the two installments so far. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book. My only criticism is a personal one. I sometimes struggle with love/hate tropes in books. I think if someone is nasty to you, then you should run far away from that person. I would hate to think that younger readers might think this type of “treat them mean, keep them keen” relationship is a good thing! But it does go with the world that Holly Black created where everyone is nasty. I just hope the final installment gets through the hate part to the love part.
Verdict: I enjoyed The Wicked King and can’t wait for book three!
Do you like the love/hate trope in a book? What’s your favourite example of this?