Review: The Wicked King

3 out of 5 stars The Wicked King, by Holly Black (The Folk of the Air #2)

wicked2Jude Duarte is human, but lives in Faerie with her sister Taryn, and the man who killed their parents. To understand why, you’d need to read The Cruel Prince. It took me half of that book to get into it, but the momentum keeps rolling right through here. Spoilers below, if you haven’t read the first book.

When last we saw them, Jude had tricked said cruel prince, Cardan, into a) becoming the High King of Faerie and b) swearing to obey her for one year and one day. Their shared master plan is to put Oak, Jude’s baby half-brother, on the throne next. In The Wicked King, that plan goes gently awry.

Cardan was, and sometimes still is, one pair of Natucket red shorts away from being every entitled bully rich kid asshole on the east coast. But he’s got a softer heart, of course, since we’re all supposed to be in forbidden love with him. I don’t feel it, personally, but I don’t hate him. Jude love/hates him, naturally. But she is good at her job of second-in-command alongside his throne, and together they are making progress to improve the land of Faerie. Still, Cardan doesn’t like being ordered around. He takes opportunities for subtle revenge, while Jude takes hers for subtle control.

wicked1Sometimes, they’re too subtle. There’s a whole scene where Jude is “humiliated” in a wacky faerie ritual as the Queen of Mirth. It’s frustratingly stupid: she has to keep saying how debased she feels because really, it’s no big deal. A zero. I’ve tripped over curbs more importantly. Overall, Black’s rendition of fish-out-of-water in Faerie plays very well. This scene feels like a placeholder for the much better and more clever idea they forgot to replace it with.

Of course, Jude’s plan faces challenge. This time, in the case of a misunderstanding with her father that divides the forces of Faerie just as the rival queen of the Undersea decides she wants to invade. It’s dramatic and well-paced, but falls prey to the trope that is my mortal enemy: it could have been resolved with a single conversation that Jude acknowledges she should have had. Talk and this plot point dies. Don’t talk, and we’re heading for Book 3, The Queen of Nothing. As if agreeing with me that this book should end on a stronger note, King Cardan delivers on the title – he does something truly wicked. Not surprising, but very satisfying. Good thing the next book is already out now.


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