Recensito in Italia 🇮🇹 il 8 gennaio 2019
** spoiler alert ** 3.5
Honestly I don't even know where to start with this review.
I'm having difficulties gathering my thoughts. I enjoyed the book, I really did, but at the same time I think it has too many major flaws.
The Cruel Prince had the potential to be a 5 star book, a true masterpiece of young adult literature, but - sadly - it isn't in any way or form. It lacks real substance, real characterization.
I'll start by saying that - despite all of this - I really enjoyed this reading and look forward to pick up The Wicked King, to return to Elfhame and discover how things will develop. But I have to be fair and write a constructive review, because it wouldn't be the truth if I wrote that everything was amazing and perfectly written.
As I already said, the story has a lot of potential in my opinion. Three little sisters witness the murder of their parents and are forced to follow the murderer in this magical reign, Elfhame, discovering that there is an entire world of faerie hidden and that the older of them belongs there, being the legitimate daughter of their parents's murderer. They are raised by the general Madoc as they were his own daughters, they go to classes with other Folks, attend royal balls etc.
Then Jude - the main character - gets involved in political issues and lots of things happen. Sounds interesting and entertaining, right? Well, it is, but it could've been more. The story itself could've been much more complicated and twisted, the book much longer than 400 pages, and the only reason it gets to 400 pages is because of the infinite details Holly Black gives: every little thing, from the dresses to the places, up to the facial expressions, is described in such a detailed way that allows the reader to really see what he's reading. As enjoyable as this can be, sometimes I found her writing style to be a bit too prolix. There are too many descriptions and too little dialogues or action, at least for me. If we remove the purely descriptive pages from the book, we will get a new book full of events, but very short.
Jude: she's our main character, a teenage girl trying to survive in a world where she doesn't belong. The story is told by her point of view, which technically should allow us to empathize more with the character, as we get to read about her thoughts, feelings, emotions. This didn't happen for me though. I like Jude - she's strong, indipendent, stubborn and ambitious, exactly how I like a character to be - but while I was reading the book I felt her distant, like there was some kind of wall that prevented me from truly connecting with her on a deeper level. I also didn't understand quite a few of her reactions to various things, her parents's murder in the first place: from the first pages we already know that Jude learned to love Madoc, a twisted love of course, but still. She also tells us about how she feels that - while Vivienne was already old when the murder happen, meaning that she has more memories of their parents that keeps her from loving, or at least accepting, Madoc - she and her twin sister were too little and that's the reason why they both learned to live in the faerie world and started to enjoy it. The problem with this is, Jude was 7 when the murder happened, while Vivienne was 9. The age gap isn't that big as she tries to make us believe and, also, at seven you're not that little, you remember stuff and I find kinda odd the she developed a feeling of love for Madoc. I could've understand if she learned to accept the fact that what happened can't be changed and decided to establish a civil relationship with him, given the fact that she was forced to live with him for the rest of her life (or at least until she would marry), but this love she tells us about isn't working for me, sorry. I also didn't find realistic her reaction to killing Valerian. She's just a teenager and she's forced to kill one of her classmates in order to save her own life, which is understandable: what isn't understandable, in my opinion, is how coldly she reacts to what she did, how easily she hides the body under the bed and then buries it the day after, then proceeding to go on a mission in which she - again - has to kill a man. I mean, sometimes Jude tells us about some thoughts she has, when Madoc says she wouldn't kill anyone she starts to doubt it, to ask herself if that's true... but the whole thing is addressed too roughly.
Vivienne: the older sister, the only one who hates the faerie world and dreams of escaping from it, yet the only one who truly belongs there. I honestly wished Vivienne was more present in the book, but she actually shows up just a few times and her role in the story isn't that important as it should be. She is presented as the one who didn't succumb to Madoc, who still fights him and who never forgived him for what he did to their parents. I wish this whole thing was showed more in the book, while Vivienne - at the end of the day - is just a stubborn girl and the typical rebellious teenager who answers badly to her parents. She lacks depth.
Taryn: oh my gosh, how much I hated this girl. I think she's the only character who was presented in all its depth, just because she has no depth at all. She's a passive little girl, who doesn't know how to defend herself and/or her sister from the bullying they get and she finds the answer in a relationship with one of the Folks sons, a toxic one in which she is asked to witness and accept beying cheated on just to prove her love is real. I can't stand her.
Prince Cardan: you can't imagine how clichè he is. One of the High King's sons, the most immature of all, a father so not proud of him to ban him from living in the court, forced to live with his brother Balekin, who treats him poorly and often beats him in the name of "love" and "education". Because of this, he grew up to be a spoiled little kid, who shows everyone to be cruel and heartless, while deep down he's just suffering and dreams of escaping from the realm. He bullies Jude, but the reader doesn't has to wait that much to understand that he does it just because he's attracted by her and can't understand why. How clichè. Their whole relationship is clichè, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate it. I just wished it wasn't so obvious, because I understood that Cardan had feelings for Jude almost immediately and this ruined the surprise effect of his declaration, almost at the end of the book.
Locke: just like Taryn, I hated Locke to the point I wanted to punch him in the face. Another spoiled little kid who's life is so boring and nonsense he has to create drama to entertain himself. Imagine how bored he is with himself. He starts to date Taryn, then force her to accept the fact that he's going to flirt and fake a relationship with her twin sister in order to show him she's truly in love and will never leave him. I like the idea of him as a character, but I didn't like how the writer developed it: since the beginning, it was already obvious that something with his behaviour with Jude wasn't right, that his kindness hid something else. Too obvious to be enjoyable and to really surprise the reader when he discovers that he is, in fact, Taryn's fiancè.
Valerian and Nicasia: two useless characters, too superficially presented, they appear a few times just to keep the story going. Valerian hates Jude from the bottom of his heart and he's violent, at the point that he tries to kill her twice. It isn't clear why he hates her this much, why he is so violent, why he's willing to kill the General's daughter and face the consequences of it just because he can't stand her. We're supposed to accept it and go on reading. Nicasia is almost nothing as a character, she says something like twice in the whole book and doesn't really have a point.
That's all! I don't know who will have the guts to read this very - too much - long review. See you when I read The Wicked King!