May 16, 2020

Review: The Wicked King

The Wicked King The Wicked King by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Folk of the Air trilogy, and continues the story of Jude Duarte, the mortal girl who has schemed, manipulated, killed, and lied her way to the power behind the throne of Faerie (or Elfhame, as it's called here). This story delves deeper into the dangerous, double-dealing, sociopathic Fae of the first book, in particular Jude's puppet High King, Cardan....who by the end of the book turns out to be not quite the puppet after all.

To put it bluntly, if you're the kind of reader who must have good and noble people in your fiction, this series is not for you. Every character here, with the exception of Jude's younger half-brother Oak (and that's only because he's not old enough) is the fantasy equivalent of Tony Soprano and family. These characters are not nice, but they are fascinating--and our protagonist Jude fits right in.

When I read the first book and discovered that Jude is not in fact cut off from the human world but can travel between Earth and Faerie at will, I asked the obvious question: Why is she still there? Why didn't she take Oak, cross over, and vanish, and let Faerie burn itself down without a backward glance? The first book answered that question, and this one drives the point home: Jude grew up in Elfhame, and she has been irrevocably twisted into the nasty, scheming, backstabbing, murderous Faerie mold. Elfhame is all she knows, and she can never truly be human. The reader knows it, Jude knows it, and she doesn't really want to change. This story tackles the ramifications of the bargain she made and the power she gained, and it is summed up by her stepfather Madoc in one sentence: "Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to."

This book tells how Jude loses that power, betrayed by Madoc, her twin sister Taryn, and ultimately Cardan, the unqualified boy she put on the throne to protect Oak and who grew into the monster the throne needed. This is an incredibly dark story, but damned if it didn't hold my interest all the way through. Some readers may want to skip this one for now, but if you can handle the grimness, you will be rewarded.

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