Time for another unpopular opinion! I did not rate The Cruel Prince at all. Seriously, if you liked it, what did you see in it? I’m curious. I just don’t get the hype around this book (other than very successful marketing) because the whole book felt like a watered down version of what a book should be.
The characters – especially our protagonist, the antagonist(s), plot, world building and the writing all had one thing in common; they were frustratingly sparse and minimal. And to top it all off, the book has a bloody boring title considering its contents.
Victoria Aveyard has given a very positive quotation on the back dust jacket of the edition I have – but she’s the author of the Red Queen series, so she wouldn’t know a good book if it hit her in the head.
In fact, my first overall impression of this book wasn’t all that great. First impressions are so crucial, for example; we aren’t supposed to judge a literal book by its cover, but let’s be honest we all do – even if it’s just a little bit! That’s why a lot of time, effort and money goes into cover designs. So seeing a quotation from Aveyard on the back cover did little for me, and I had a similar reaction to the authors photograph on the inside back dust jacket.
“Little did Prince Dain know that my real skill lies in pissing people off.”
This is my first experience with Holly Black, and maybe she’s a lovely person in real life, her Instagram certainly gives that impression, but I was so turned off by her author photo. For me, the way she’s portrayed in the photo makes her look like someone I’d never want to interact with because to me she looks quite judgmental and like she’s on a high-horse. It’s almost egotistical and condescending. It was quite off-putting for me.
What’s this got to do with the review? Well for me first impressions are everything – it’s the photo that has been chosen to represent her to her readers, both existing and new, and it just felt off to me, along with the quotation from Aveyard – an author I’ve not been shy about my opinions of. It almost made me not pick the book up.
I purposely left this review a little late to see if anything about The Cruel Prince stuck in my mind. Unfortunately the answer is no, nothing did. I hate to hate a book that got so much hype, but I can’t help it in this case. All I remember is that I found it very, very boring. I can only remember the main characters names, such as Jules, Vivi and Carden. I can’t remember the ‘queen bee bitch’ character’s name or any of that faerie entourage at all.
“This is absurd. This is awful. This isn’t how people show loyalty. this is epic, epic bullshit.”
The book reads like a draft a lot of the time, I know I said something similar earlier but it really is true. There was no emotion at all, it often read like a list of ‘things that happened’ and ‘things people said’ rather than a story. The Cruel Prince is a perfect example of a book using the ‘tell not show’ writing technique which to me makes it feel like one of two things has happened (or a mix of both); the author either has no imagination or doesn’t care enough to bring us into the world. An example of this is that I had no idea how the faerie world hid from the human world – is there a size difference? Did Jules shrink down to a faerie size, or are faeries human size? If they are different sizes, how does a mixed species person like Vivi work? What about the animals like frogs?
So much of the book felt rushed. Especially the protagonist’s motivations for practically everything she does. There was no progression – no reason to care. It’s like Black couldn’t be bothered to explain things to us, we’re just supposed to go with it. Nope. Sorry honey, but that’s not how I roll.
For example, there were so many random creatures thrown in with no descriptions as to what they are or what they looked like. I get that we all have an idea of what faeries might look like, but there are some in there that I had no fucking clue what the Queen of the Faeries was talking about because I hadn’t heard of half of them!
But screw the creatures that were pretty much there for cheap decoration and distraction –on to the characters! So you know I practically can’t remember any of them, but for the ones I can remember Vivi was the only likable character, and I’m being generous. Vivi still wasn’t fleshed out but whenever she was in a scene I didn’t find myself wanting to skip ahead.
Jules though, that bitch is a different story. Jules suffers from the same ‘Professional Victimhood’ that a lot of female YA leads (especially fantasy) seem to be suffering from at the moment. She does nothing but whine and moan about how life isn’t fair, and she isn’t pretty, or interesting. Well you know what she’s right. She’s not interesting – she’s boring. Every time she whines I literally told her to cry me a fucking river and that she needed to get over it and act on her emotions, not just mope in them. As for prettiness, whatever, I have no time for that – but she is an ugly person! There’s a scene where she kisses someone, despite knowing that person didn’t want it, and she fucking enjoyed it! She got excited that the person she was kissing wasn’t into it! No mean’s no Jules, and consent works both ways remember? She’s a fucking psycho.
The plot of the story was void of any excitement and there were loads of times I wanted to skip ahead. Things were jumbled up together and I don’t think the plot knew what it wanted out of itself. It was ultra-predictable and dull.
Needless to say I won’t be continuing this series – I hated the characters and the writing. How do you suck the magic out of faeries?! Congratulations Holly Black, because you managed it.
Definitely a contender for my top 5 worst reads of 2018!
“She staggers forward, going to her hands and knees. gold fabric and glittering gems are drowning in scarlet.”
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[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.