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Let’s Talk About Holly Black and her ‘The Folk of the Air’ Trilogy

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse”

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)

Now, I don’t know about you, but these books frustrate me so much! Both in a good way and in a bad way that is. We’ll get into why that’s so a little later on, first let’s talk about the first book in this trilogy: The Cruel Prince.

The Cruel Prince establishes the universe, the backstory and character relationships and everything really – and for the large majority of the trilogy, these details remains the same. So, what actually happens in the book? The story is about the ‘Cruel Prince’ BUT the main character is Jude. Basically, Jude and her sisters are human, when they were children their parents were murdered and they were (kidnapped) taken away and now live in the Faerie realm. This novel beings ten years later, when Jude and her sisters are older. Jude’s eldest sister, Vivienne was able to get away from the Faerie realm and lives the rest of her life in the human world, but Jude and Taryn (who are actually twin sisters) both want to desperately belong in the Faerie world – the only problem being that the faerie hates humans and Prince Cardan, the youngest and cruellest son of the High King, seems to especially ‘hate’ Jude.

The one advantage Jude has over the Faeries is that since she’s human, she can lie – the faeries can’t lie outright they can only be smart with their words. That’s what makes Jude actually capable of being on the same level as Cardan and the other faeries. But, of course, the plot isn’t that simple. This book isn’t just about Jude trying to be accepted by the faeries (and wow, the things she went through, I mean she almost drowned at one point), this book has a lot of political intrigues, faeries are tricky and deceptive and there’s someone actually bold enough to betray the High King. So, while Jude is trying to get accepted, she’s also trying to save her sisters and the realm because *hint* *hint* the person who betrayed the High King is close to Jude.

The complexity of the characters and the magic of the faerie universe (and of course the politics) is what draws me to this book so much. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book which interested me so much. The Cruel Prince is so much more complicated than what I’ve mentioned in the summary and boy are you going to scream at the ending (again in a good way!) if you decide to read this book.

Speaking about the ending, now let’s talk about The Wicked King. This second book begins about five months after the events of The Cruel Prince and Jude, after wanting to be seen as equal to the faeries, has finally been put in a position where she has power over them – and of Cardan, who is now the new King of the realm. Jude has complete control over Cardan for a year and a day – so if she tells him to be a King, he will have to be King, if she tells him to eat dirt, he will eat dirt (this actually happened in the novel and as awful as it sounds, this was one of my favourite moments in the book. If you read the novels you’ll understand what I mean, promise.).

How did Jude and Cardan end up here? Well, The Cruel Prince ended with the revelation that Jude’s younger brother (Oak) is the real heir to the faerie throne (how that actually happened is long and I want to bore you with the details), and we all know that Jude is willing to do anything to keep family safe, even if they might not do the same for her. So, Oak is sent away to the human world with Vivienne while Jude is essentially abandoned by Taryn and is left to navigate the politics of faerie by herself. Though Cardan is under her control, he still does everything in his power to make Jude’s life miserable (with their romance budding in the background of course). But, again, there’s another betrayal which again threatens to hurt everyone Jude loves and cares about. Faeries love making trouble, don’t they?

And, since I’m still talking about The Wicked King, let me just tell you again that I SCREAMED when I read the ending. Again, Holly Black, you are the queen of cliffhangers and book endings. Two books filled with tension and banter between Jude and Cardan and Holly Black just makes Cardan exile Jude to the mortal world. Thank you being the reason for my ongoing trust issues Ms Holly Black.

And finally, before I go more in-depth about the characters (and potentially embarrass myself fangirling), I just want to talk a little bit about The Queen of Nothing. I have a detailed review of this final novel in the trilogy which is linked here if you want to read it, but I’ll still give you a short summary of this novel: So, remember how Jude had control over Cardan, well The Wicked King ended with Cardan tricking Jude into releasing her control over him. How did Jude get tricked? Well, they GOT MARRIED (*squeal*) in secret. Cardan promised to make Jude his queen provided she gave up her control over him and, of course, our Wicked King, the second he got control he exiled Jude, and since no one knew about the marriage, Jude packed her bags and left.

So, The Queen of Nothing essentially picks up from a little while after those events. Jude, the exiled ‘Queen of Nothing’, is spending her time with her sister Vivienne and Oak (and Vivi’s girlfriend Heather) in the human world. But she’s determined to go back to the faerie realm, so when Taryn’s life is in danger (if you know what happened in The Wicked King THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN OBVIOUS. Seriously, Taryn should have listened to Jude!) she goes straight to Jude for help. Jude, of course, takes that chance to go back to the Faerie Court where she tries to save her sister once again as well as confronting her feelings for Cardan.

Now, let me rant about these characters. I have a lot of emotions to release concerning these characters. Let’s start with Madoc, Vivienne and Taryn – Jude’s family. Madoc is a proper contradiction which is both infuriating and perfect at times. He was the one who had murdered Jude’s parents when she and her sisters were younger, but he has a twisted sense of loyalty and honour (think Ned Stark but more morally grey than honourable) and spared the girls since they were kids at the time and took them to the faerie realm and raised them as his daughters. There is some kind of weird and twisted paternal love that Madoc shows the girls (he taught Jude how to fight and to stand on her own) but he’s also cunning and power-hungry. A great catastrophe if you ask me.

Vivienne is one of my favourite characters. She’s a loving older sister, kind of rebellious but while Jude loves her twin Taryn more, it seems more like Vivienne is there for Jude more than Taryn is. Vivienne ends up being the person that Jude trusts with all her grand plans, and unlike Taryn, Vivienne actually does what she can to support Jude. The only thing you should remember about Vivienne is that she hates the faerie realm. While Jude and Taryn desire to be accepted by the faeries, Vivienne had always resented them – I guess since she’s the oldest of the three sisters, she had more memories about the human world and always preferred living there than with the faerie. So, for the large majority of the trilogy, we don’t see Vivienne as much, which is a shame because I do like her.

Jude’s love for Taryn is so undeserved if you ask me. Personality-wise, Jude and Taryn are complete opposites, Taryn is more gentle and your stereotypical ‘lady of the house’ while Jude is more of a Katniss Everdeen-like character, angry, tough and ANGRY but also loving to her family. Despite these differences Jude truly cares for her twin sister and there were quite a few moments in The Cruel Prince where Jude puts herself into tough situations so Taryn is okay. So what’s the issue with Taryn? While Jude is more explosive and loud about her want to be accepted by the faeries, Taryn has chosen a more lowkey method of acceptance – by marrying a faerie who’s in Cardan’s court. While her want to get married isn’t a bad thing, the person whom she chose to marry also happens to be the same person who tried to court Jude and later, also tried to kill her. Confused? Don’t worry, if there is one thing I can tell you about this book, it would be that Jude can’t trust anyone. Including her own twin.

And now, let’s talk about Jude and Cardan. Just in case it was unclear from my plot summaries earlier in this review – Cardan and Jude are essentially following that enemies to lovers trope. While Jude is our the main character and we are expected to be on her side, both she and Cardan are terrible people, Cardan, of course, even more so evil, but Jude is just as difficult. And I love them both because of it (we love murder wives and their supportive boyfriends).

Their dynamic starts out extremely easy and simple to understand, they hate each other wholeheartedly – Cardan takes every opportunity available to humiliate Jude and Jude hates the power he (and the other faeries) have over her as a human. But then, as Jude elevates herself into a position where she’s equal to Cardan, that’s where things start to change (for Jude anyway, Cardan has always had feelings for her). Jude found out that Cardan has been tortured by his older brothers and also found out more about his complicated family relationships. To the reader, it becomes apparent that one of the reasons why Cardan despises Jude so much is because she has somewhat a more loving family than he does. Also, Jude makes a lot of comments about how beautiful and attractive Cardan is (AND THE OTHER FAERIES but mainly Cardan). Not to mention, as the story develops and the two end up spending more time together, in between their married couples’ banter and tension, the characters grow fonder of each other, letting moments of vulnerability and tenderness slip in every now and then. So, evidently, they do end up with a pretty complicated relationship, they’re not really friends, they could be lovers, but then there’s not a lot of love that is expressed, but then they really do love each other. Urg! Again, this is a great thing for Holly Black, she knows how to keep her readers constantly intrigued in her storyline and characters.

Now, putting the politics, the character relationships and the worlding building aside, there is one important thing we have to talk about. As much as I love reading The Folk of the Air, there is one major problem I do have with it. (I don’t always read critically, most of the time I just read for pleasure, but there are things that can’t be ignored). So, what is the ONE reason why this book frustrates me in a bad way? It’s the fact that Jude and Cardan’s relationship can be seen as an abusive and toxic relationship and that these books portray that as romantic and ideal. Now again, I love this trilogy, and I love a good enemies-to-lovers relationship trope, BUT, I also do understand that slightly younger readers may think that Jude and Cardan are to be idealised. I think this is the general issue enemies to lovers can have, it can very easily be abusive and we have to draw the line somewhere right?

You know like how Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship is portrayed? We all know they are toxic and a bad couple to idealise, but we still romanticise them even though we really shouldn’t. So, while individually Jude and Cardan are very interesting and great characters, together their relationship can also be interpreted as being problematic.

I personally think this trope works well with these characters BUT I am in a position where I can also identify abusive romance tactics in real life, so I know not to romanticise certain actions fictional characters take into my real life (a lot of younger readers may not be able to do so). What do you think about this? Let me know I’d love to hear all opinions about Jude and Cardan and the enemies to lovers trope in general.

So, to finish off, you will not be bored, there is a little bit of everything (fantasy, romance, adventure, murder, betrayal etc.) intertwined intricately together. Holly Black really outdid herself in this trilogy. Thanks for reading my long book review and I hope you all have a lovely day.

Note: this was originally published on November 24, 2019.


Published by Faith

Writer. Blogger. Bad Photographer. Makeup, skincare and fashion enthusiasts (not an expert!). And bookworm extraordinaire.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Holly Black and her ‘The Folk of the Air’ Trilogy

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