YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2): by Holly Black

Publish Date: January 8th, 2019
Number of Pages: 322 Pages
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review may contain spoilers from the previous title, The Cruel Prince! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!***

To see my full review for book #1 – The Cruel Prince – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

After reading this little number, I have a few questions for our devious author, Holly Black… First one: How dare you? Second one: why are you doing this to us? why must you torture us with this book? this series? Seriously…this book is why I have trust issues!

If you loved the first title of this highly entertaining YA Fantasy trilogy, you’re in for a quite a surprise with this next title; you’ll somehow grow even more addicted to it because…oh my lord, the twists, the turns, the betrayals…oh, the betrayals! It might be too much for some of you more sensitive readers, I don’t know…maybe you won’t be as much of a mess as I was as I finished it, or maybe you’ll be worse off, who knows?

If you couldn’t guess by now, I seriously enjoyed this book, but not for the best of reasons…It’s just so wicked, so twisty, so addicting, so dangerous, so untrustworthy, so heart-wrenching, so diabolical, so steamy, and also so beautifully written; I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Holly Black, even as it becomes painfully more and more obvious and that she’s sadistic and loves to torture us all!

His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

What It’s About:

This sequel starts five months after the events that took place in the previous title, The Cruel Prince, and here’s the quick recap of what’s all going down: Cardan had become King of Elfhame, but secretly has Jude controlling him behind the scenes until the one year and one day time limit ends. Jude also is on rocky terms with Madoc, Taryn is set to marry Locke (which is fine, they deserve each other *barf*), Oak is in hiding with Vivi after the shocking reveal that he was actually the true heir to the throne, Balekin is locked away for being a psychotic drama queen (or king?) for trying to steal the crown. Yep, so a lot happened, and it all will come into play as the story continues to develop.

There is a new threat to worry about: Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea (And Nicasia’s mother), has decided to end her treaty with the fae folk and rule them all since she’s not too convinced about Cardan on the throne, and plans on a hostile takeover. All the other courts are coming together, also questioning Cardan and whether he’s a worthy king to follow.

What I Liked:

Our eyes meet, and something dangerous sparks.

He hates you, I remind myself.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

I feel those words, feel them like a kick to the stomach. He sees my expression and laughs, a sound full of mockery. I can’t tell which of us he’s laughing at.

He hates you. Even if he wants you, he hates you.

Maybe he hates you the more for it.

After a moment, his eyes flutter closed. His voice falls to a whisper, as though he’s talking to himself. “If you’re the sickness, I suppose you can’t also be the cure.”

He drifts off to sleep, but I am wide awake.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”
  1. The Banter and Sexual Tension Between Cardan & Jude! Easily my favorite part of this whole series. There’s never been quite a relationship in a book series like the one these two have, whether it’s YA Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Romance, you name it. Both are anti-heroes, both morally-questionable, and both have done some less-than-stellar things towards each other and those around them. It’s obvious that they don’t want to trust each other, but as they are literally betrayed by everyone else as the story progresses, they slowly start to realize how they need to try with each other if they want be able to get what they both want. What is also so enthralling is how they both still refuse to admit or even accept their feelings for each other. They hate the other one for making them love each other; it’s so complex, unique, and so entertaining! Their dynamic was seriously so sexy to read, I couldn’t get enough! It’s weird, but I actually really like that both of them are willing to exploit each other, despite it being so flippin’ obvious that they’re both falling hardcore for each other, but neither wants to admit to themselves, and especially not to each other because nobody wants to give that sort of power over to the other. It’s so much fun to see how they play around each other like it’s some sort of chess game, but I’m not sure if they know what they want more: power or each other. Can they have both? It’s hard to say… Things get pretty intense and heated (AKA steamy) between them, and with how the book ends in such a dramatic cliffhanger, it makes for the third book to be all that much more anticipated to finally give us readers the final outcome of this magnificent enemies-to-lovers relationship comes to be. I absolutely have no idea, and I cannot wait!
  2. You Can’t Trust Anybody! Literally everyone is plotting behind each other’s back in this story, absolutely NO ONE is innocent. I swear, no book has ever matched up to the term “twists and turns” more than this title! Throughout the story, Jude is warned that someone close to her will betray her, and she slowly goes absolutely crazy trying to find out who it is. Mild Spoiler Alert but not really*** It’s actually, like, everyone. Everyone has ulterior motives, everyone has secrets, and everyone is willing to pull a Brutus and totally stab Caesar in order to get what they want…AND I absolutely love it! It’s so unpredictable and is like a literary thorn bush that protrudes everywhere and leaves you in so much pain wherever you go! Don’t even try and attempt to figure what may happen next, you won’t.
  3. That Cliffhanger Ending! It was something to behold…I can’t give too much away, but I can say that it makes you want to get that third book in your hands. ASAP. It’s pretty brutal to be honest, and I’m loving the theories I’m reading about it and whether people are justifying it or condemning it. I was shook, snatched bald, not okay after it, you name it! Oh Cardan Greenbriar…I don’t even know where to start!
  4. Continues to Have Dark/Morally Grey Characters! Besides the romance, another thing this book is about is power, much like a lot of Fantasy novels. It’s about power, and the vile things people will do in order to gain it. It makes this book stand out to look back and think about all the characters you meet in this series, and marvel at how morally gray they all are. Some are obviously more vile than others, but one thing Holly Black does so well is give us a glimpse of how their actions are justified. Maybe we don’t agree with them, but we can see where the character’s mind went in order for us to maybe understand where they are coming from…except maybe Taryn and Locke. They can choke.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. How Short This Book Felt…I honestly don’t know if it’s because I cruised through this book in no time at all, or if it’s because it’s actually pretty short compared to other fantasy novels, but I wanted more! It felt like the story was over so much quicker, and it was shorter than the previous title (The Cruel Prince: 370 Pages, The Wicked King: 322 Pages), and I’m just a pouting, spoiled brat because I WANT MORE!!!

Conclusion:

The Folk in the Air series continues in the most devious, enchanting, and twisted of ways! Fans of the first book in the series will be absolutely ADDICTED when they read what goes on in this sequel; and while they may want to chuck this book across the room and scream at the frustration and angst that it causes, it also drives their need to keep reading and see what happens next, and make it feel more important than breathing, than eating. It’s like a drug you can’t get enough of! With the author’s beautiful prose, captivating cast of characters, and steamy romance weaved between the intricate and compelling plots; all that equates to the work of an evil genius… Holly Black, you are just so deliciously evil!

I have heard that for mortals, the feeling of falling in love is very like like the feeling of fear. Your heart beats fast. Your senses are heightened. You grow light-headed, maybe even dizzy. Is that right?

‘Jude,’ he said, running a hand up my calf. ‘Are you afraid of me?'”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Folk of the Air Series by Holly Black

courtesy of Instagram profile @darkfaerietales_

In Holly Black’s enchanting and twisted trilogy, Jude Duarte is a young mortal girl when Madoc comes and kills her parents. He takes her and her sisters back with him to the High Courts of Faerie, and ten years later wants nothing more than to belong amongst the folk despite their hatred for humans. Among the worst is Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest and most sadistic prince of the royal court, and Jude must evade him and his threats in order to secure her place.

As she gets herself caught up within the many twisted webs of courtly intrigue, she discovers her own skills and willingness to shed blood and tell lies, and discovers not only a shocking betrayal in the works but a scandal that could rock the whole future of Faerie. Jude must make some deadly deals and align herself with some dangerous players in order to secure not only her own safety, but everyone else she loves too.

My book review for The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) is here!

My book review for The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) is here!

My book review for The Queen of Nothing (Folk of the Air #3) is here!

The Folk of the Air trilogy is full of twists, deadly surprises, and enchanting romance that entranced me into Holly Black’s world of Faerie, and has been a vastly popular series for fans of YA-Fantasy everywhere!

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Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Jude Duarte/Taryn Duarte: Daisy Ridley

Credit to owner

Who I really need as is a young Natalie Portman, but Daisy is an awesome choice to play the twins if I do say so myself! Based of her portrayal of Rey in the new “Star Wars” movies along with her role in “Murder on the Orient Express”, she’d be great at capturing both Jude and Taryn’s split personalities.

Prince Cardan Greenbriar: Mitchell Wick

He’s got the flow, he’s got the smoldering gaze, and the sexy body! My pick for the wicked king of Elfhame is none other than this gorgeous male model.

Vivianne Duarte: Ana de Armas, or Sophia Bush

Ana de Armas, who stared in Rian Johnson’s whodunnit film, Knives Out, definitely has a certain look that I believe is quite similar to Jude and Taryn’s older half-fae sister. Sophia Bush is another great choice who’s been in hit TV shows like One Tree Hill and Chicago P.D.

Locke: Douglas Booth

Just dye his hair a fiery orange, and you’ve got yourself my version of Locke! This British actor has been in the BBC mini-series based of Agatha Christie’s novel: “And Then There Were None,” along with the newer edition of “Romeo and Juliet” alongside Hailey Steinfeld.

Balekin Greenbriar: Aidan Turner

The older, more sinister of the Greenbriar siblings needed to be played by someone who is able to play a villain and look good doing it. I think I was watching The Hobbit movies when I came up with Aiden Turner as my choice, who was also in the And Then There Were None mini-series, but it worked!

Eldred Greenbriar: Anthony Hopkins

If these books were turned into a film franchise, it’s something that no one would expect Hannibal Lector to be a part of, so I thought it’d be fun to see Anthony as the elderly king of Elfhame and get him all campy and fairy-like.

Madoc: Keifer Sutherland

Kind of a random/filler answer to who would play the role of Madoc, but from what little I’ve seen on his old show, 24, Keifer would hold his own as the General.

Nicasia: Aja Naomi King

I love her in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, and for some reason I pictured Nicasia being black—why not?—so Aja Naomi King would excel at the role of the elitist princess of the deep!

Dain Greenbriar: Tyler Hoechlin

Another Mr. tall, dark, and handsome to play a Greenbriar sibling! Catch him from the Teen Wolf TV show that used to be on MTV (if you feel up to it, I know that sentence makes it really tempting).

Heather: Kat Graham

Kat Graham has been a favorite of mine ever since her witchy days back on The Vampire Diaries, and she’s always switching up her look, so I thought she’d be a good fit for the alternative, artistic character named Heather.

Valerian: Dan Stevens

He was pretty decent in the recent live-action Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, alongside Emma Watson, so he’s familiar with playing in fantasy settings for projects.

The Ghost: Robert Hoffman

Kind of a meh choice, but surprisingly it was harder to find an actor with sandy colored hair and hazel eyes that fit the bill of the mysterious assassin. If anyone remembers him, he was the jerk of an ex-boyfriend in She’s The Man and was in Step Up 2: The Streets even though none of those roles really help my casting of him.

The Bomb: Melvnin

This instagram model has such a beautiful, unique look; she looks like a faerie in real life!

Oriana: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow is an actress who hardly needs any introductions or reminders of what films she’s done. Oriana always seems like she has a cloud hanging over her head, but she still pulls it off with such grace and splendor…Our girl Gwynie would rock this part!

Queen Orlagh: Viola Davis

Since she works with Aja (above) in “HTGAWM,” why not have her play Nicasia’s mother, the Queen of the ocean?

Asha (Cardan’s Mother): Sarah Paulson

Say what you will about American Horror Story, but there’s no denying that Sarah Paulson is an absolutely brilliant actress! Asha seems like an incredibly complex character, and I would love Sara to bring her character to life!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1): by Holly Black

Publish Date: January 2nd, 2018
Number of Pages: 370 Pages
Publisher: Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

I had incredibly little expectations for this title when I picked it up only a couple of months after it’s initial release date. The cover instantly drew me in; I’ve said it before, but YA books have been getting the golden treatment in terms of cover designs. Prior to it, I’d heard very little about Holly Black as an author, and any of the previous work she’s released before this title. She’d done other stories like the Modern Faerie Tales trilogy, The Magisterium series with Cassandra Clare (Bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments Series who’s also her BFF), but none had gotten my attention quite like The Cruel Prince.

I think it was also the many comparisons to Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series all over social media that made me even take note of it to be completely honest. At the time, I’d just begun to read that series, fall in love with it after reading the second title, A Court of Mist and Fury (SJM’s best book written to this time, don’t even try and fight me on it!), so I thought to myself, why not?, and gave it a shot.

What It’s About:

At the young age of seven, Jude Duarte witnessed her parents get murdered. She and her two sisters, Taryn and Vivienne, lived peacefully in our world until one day when a magical being arrives and completely changes their lives. General Madoc, who it turned out was actually Vivienne’s biological father, kills their parents and frisks them all away to live with him in the secret, magical realm of Faerie. 10 years later, twin sisters Jude and Taryn have grown to love their new home despite being mortal, and obediently follow the rules in order to stay. Vivi, who is actually half-fae, is the total opposite and doesn’t want to a part of this world.

Elfhame, the setting of Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” Series, Image courtesy of the fandom’s wiki page

Being Mortal, the twins are seen as lower-born, or less desirable amongst some of the fae, and the only way they (or any human) can stay in the realm into adulthood is if they marry someone fae, or be able to show a truly impressive skill. Taryn chooses the marriage option, but Jude decides to enter a tournament to show off her skill in combat in order to become a become a knight for the royal family.

I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal. In my heart, I yearn to best them.”

– Holly Black, “The Cruel Prince”

The three sisters attend a ball at the Palace for the King, who has announced that he will soon appoint a successor amongst his six sons for the crown. It is there that you meet another VERY interesting character, Prince Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest but most vicious of the royals. Along with his little posse of noble-born fae, their goal seems to be to torment the twins during their schooling lessons. Jude and Cardan go back and forth in their torture; he even tries to drown her in order to get her to not compete in the tournament, but is saved by her sister. Jude and Cardan’s hatred for each other is a strong driving point of the story, that also takes a twist that no one would wholly see coming.

One night, Jude returns home to be told that theres a prince waiting for her in the parlor. It’s not Prince Cardan, but one of his older brothers, Prince Dain, much to her surprise. They cut a deal, and from there on, Jude becomes a part of all the palace intrigue and learns more about the lies and deception that go on behind closed doors, and discovers a shocking secret, along with a plot, that could change everything. She must be able to stand amongst those most dangerous in order to not only save herself, or her sisters, but all of Faerie itself.

Instead of being afraid, I will become something to fear.”

– Holly Black, “The Cruel Prince”

What I Liked:

  1. The Complexity of the Characters! In this story, there’s no line of good versus evil; it’s not black and white and easy to distinguish. Every character is not entirely likeable or unlikeable, and they all have a dark side and does things that are below the belt, despicable, whatever nasty word you can use to describe it. It was refreshing to see a heroine in Jude, who wasn’t afraid to lie, cheat and steal in order to gain an advantage; even better was when she found herself enjoying it. This world doesn’t create Disney Princesses darling; you’ve got to have some claws in order to gain power and influence.
  2. Fae Mythology! I am by no means an expert when it comes to Faerie folklore, but according to others, Holly Black really did her research on the matter and successfully integrated a lot of myth and legends into her story in order for it be considered an accurate portrayal. The Fae are supernatural beings that can come in all shapes and sizes and is the broad term to tie together many species: Elves, Pixies, Leprechauns, Dwarves, Gnomes, Dryads, etc. Basically, imagine every fairytale you’ve ever read from your childhood to now, and any magical being that appears is considered fae. They’ve been around for such a long time (Even Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream had them), and lived in harmony amongst mortals until Christianity drove a wedge between them (first of all, hmmm……second of all, thats what I think I read…experts can feel free to call me out if that’s inaccurate). They are more in tune with nature, they cannot tell a lie, they are more malevolent than humans, are tricksters, and for some reason have a weakness to iron.
  3. The Climax! Yowza…what a way to wrap it all together, not to mention, what a creative way to integrate this story into the next. Holly Black knows how to torture her readers!
  4. Holly Black’s Prose! Her writing style is simply gorgeous; it seams effortlessly together, and the way she can form words…it all just comes together so magnificently. It’s just perfect. I want to know her secrets.
  5. The Tiny sprinkle of Romance! Yes fam, amongst all the lies, the deceit, the bitter betrayals, the side-changing, there is a little bit of romance alongside all the rest of the story, much to my satisfaction. The only question is: Is it genuine, or is it simply manipulated in order to gain an edge? And by edge, yes, I mean the edge of a sharp knife against a delicate throat, ready to test a theory (*wink*wink*) to those that read have already it), or ready to slash at any second, sending blood spraying like a popped open bottle of champagne.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Beginning Felt Rushed and Undervalued…To me, the beginning of the story went by so fast with its initial set up, it almost feels like it was pointless to include it if it meant so little to the overall story. It’s something that’s supposed to be an incredibly traumatic & grieving experience, something that changes a being (magical or mortal), and it felt like it was over before we knew it without any of the characters actually being all that affected by it. Even more strange, there was absolutely no need for revenge or justice amongst them because of it; it simply happened, and everyone moved on (except for me, I guess…)

Conclusion:

This book overall is nothing thats too new or innovative when it comes to what we’ve seen in YA Fantasy before, but that doesn’t make it any less of an entertaining read. It’s addicting because of the author’s beautiful prose, her characterization and their development, and the many twists and turns you take within the pages as the reader; it’s like being caught in a web of vines deep in the forest, and no one is around to hear you scream. It leaves you with excitement, it leaves you in torment, but ultimately it leaves you wanting more, which is what any author should want.

There are some similarities to the popular “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series by my queen Sarah J. Maas that I mentioned earlier, but that’s purely from looking at it from it’s initial aesthetic before actually reading what Holly Black has created for us. Both are great additions to the YA Fantasy genre, and it can go down as me saying that it’s guaranteed that this series will go down as one of the Greats.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell