Review: The Queen of Nothing

3.5 out of 5 stars

Decent and solid, but this series deserved a little better in the end. The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black (The Folk of the Air #3)

I prefer to read any series back-to-back, yet always fall for pretty cover art on the shelf and end up waiting a year between installments. So after being a bit slow to read The Cruel Prince, I waited on The Wicked King until The Queen of Nothing came out. The title is a little spoiler-y, but that’s my own fault.

In this last book, Jude has been exiled from faerie. One day, her twin Taryn shows up with a plea: Will Jude sneak back into faerie and pretend to be Taryn, to help her get out of a very serious situation? It’s Jude’s ticket back to her true home, and back to what she truly wants: Power.

Here’s why this is a 3.5-star series to me: We’re supposed to think that Jude wants Cardan. And she does. Their relationship is almost too real to read like fiction. They need each other 10% of the time, tolerate each other the other 90%. It’s accurate and human and honestly, so refreshing in a YA genre full of caterwauling 17-year olds with zero life experience who will never recover from, like, the first crush any of us ever had on a boy band. Jude and Cardan are a bit cold together, even at their peak, and I like it.

But in Queen of Nothing, Jude is straight up power hungry in a way that’s never addressed. Sure, she influenced Cardan in The Wicked King, but that had purpose. Now it’s as if no one – not Jude, nor the author – even notices that she wants power just for power’s sake. She becomes bizarrely self-centered. Jude has zero claim to any throne, and only a tenuous one to Cardan himself. But at the end of Wicked King, he makes her queen and bam!, she drinks that Kool-Aid in one gulp. Out of absolutely nowhere, Jude believes she deserves to be Queen with shocking casualness. It seems like a chunk of her inner conflict (or at least monologue) is missing. Yes, she’d be a good queen. But she never seems to think of how much she could help, or what she’d do, or anything, really. She just deserves with no reason. Instead of The Queen of Nothing, Jude is The Queen for Nothing. (She’s basically Madoc without the specific intent here, and that’s left unexplored. It makes her feel flat and convenient.)

The plot zips along: good action, a few pleasing surprises (Grima Mog!), and a few annoying platitudes (Stay home, Vivi.). For all its titles, the series never had much cruelty or wickedness, but the political machinations between Jude and Madoc continue to entertain. Taryn grows a bit of spine, finally evolving from disastrous trope to tolerable fool. Cardan, who we were so relentlessly battered with in Book One, becomes the series’ best character – just in time to be criminally underused.

The Wicked King had a strong ending, and The Queen of Nothing mostly lived up to that potential. Despite it’s unevenness, this series was an ultimately satisfying 3.5/5 stars throughout.

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