The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2) – Holly Black

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Synopsis: 

The enchanting and bloodthirsty sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince.

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.

Review:

This will contain spoilers from The Cruel Prince.

Here’s the thing . . . I liked The Cruel Prince. I didn’t love it and I am not as obsessed as most of the YA world. I was definitely looking forward to reading The Wicked King, but I wasn’t as excited as I was for other releases. The Wicked King totally exceeded my expectations!

The Wicked King picks up five months after the ending of The Cruel Prince when Jude tricked Cardan into becoming the High King. Jude is basically the puppet-master of Elfhame. She has her hands full – both mentally and physically – running the kingdom and trying to keep Cardan in check. The clock is ticking for Jude. She must figure out how to extend Cardan’s obedience before the year + one day ends. Jude must also battle her complex feelings for Cardan. The Wicked King was full of drama, political intrigue, sexual tension, twists and turns, and magic.

One of my biggest issues with The Cruel Prince was that the characters seemed very one dimensional. There was little depth beyond the typical YA tropes. For example, Jude wonders why Cardan hates her. It’s supposed to be a big reveal that Cardan is actually attracted to Jude, but it was obvious and expected. I think that Holly Black greatly improved on her writing and character development in The Wicked King. The characters had so much more depth. Jude wasn’t simply a mortal girl struggling to fit into the faerie world. She is a powerful woman who used her intelligence to gain power. We learn that Jude is actually quite power-hungry. She doesn’t want to lose the power she’s gained. It was both shocking and exciting to see how much Jude has changed and embraced her true desires. Cardan also gained so much depth. To the kingdom, he appears to still be the cruel playboy disinterested king, but Jude (and we as the readers) get to see how much he’s grown. Cardan is now in the game. He spies, manipulates, and uses power just as much as everyone else. Holly Black did an excellent job growing her characters.

The world of Elfhame expands in The Wicked King. Though mentioned in The Cruel Prince, we didn’t get to explore the Undersea until now. The addition of the Undersea and its Queen was fascinating. I thought these scenes were some of Black’s best writing. The Undersea made me think of a very dark Little Mermaid kingdom. I would love to continue to explore the Undersea and more of the world of Elfhame!

The Wicked King was full of massive twists and turns. The ending was shocking and it was crazy to find out that nothing is what it seemed! The Cruel Prince ended with a reveal and cliffhanger, but it is NOTHING compared to The Wicked King. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

A couple of quick notes:

  • This series should be called The Cruel FOLK and The Wicked FOLK because DAMN those faerie folk are straight up evil sometimes.
  • I got my copy of the The Wicked King in the Owl Crate special edition box. Kudos to Owl Crate and Holly Black for cultivating an incredible box. I liked the exclusive cover for The Cruel Prince, but the Owl Crate cover for The Wicked King is perfect and absolutely gorgeous!

EDIT: So the more I thought about this book & series the more I dislike it. I am all for the enemies to lovers trope, but only if it’s done the right way. Jude & Cardan’s relationship is toxic. It is totally emotionally and physically abusive. Both parties abuse and manipulate the other. It is unhealthy and actually quite disturbing. It glosses over and romanticizes an abusive relationship. It is a terrible message to send to young teens (and actually everyone of all ages) who read this book. I could keep ranting but I’ll stop here.