As I wait for the sequel to The Cruel Prince to be released, I decided to check out other books by this author. I was really happy to find that the author has written many standalone books, because I’m not sure if I’m up for the commitment of a series right now – I have far too many series to complete as it is! I decided to read this one in audiobook format, because I’ve been doing a lot of commuting and haven’t had a lot of time to crack open a physical book. Here is my review:
Summary (Goodreads): Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
So the premise of this novel was very interesting. I loved the idea of putting a story about the fae in a modern setting. Usually, you only read about characters being transported to the world of the fae or vice versa, so it was refreshing to have this element of magical realism/urban fantasy in the story.
But while the story started off well, it didn’t stay that way. Something about the way the story was presented just didn’t hold my attention. I wasn’t really able to pinpoint if it was the writing style itself or the plot, but it just felt a bit bland compared to the description I was given at the beginning. I was missing that building tension, that darkness that this novel was promising to deliver.
Some of my unhappiness with the story can also be attributed to the portrayal of the characters: it just wasn’t done very well. They just lacked personality and I couldn’t feel a connection to them – or between them. There were quite a few instances of romance in the story but it just felt so unnatural and forced; it was more of an insta-love situation than a gradual buildup of emotion. Even the fact that there was an LGBTQ+ presence couldn’t save it.
Maybe it was the poor characterization. Or maybe it was my expectations for a dark and creepy tale. Either way, this novel let me down. Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t try other books by Holly Black. I clearly LOVED The Cruel Prince. However, this is one of her earlier books and it may just not have been my cup of tea. I’m giving this story a 2/5 stars, but I am definitely not giving up on this author!
Happy reading ~