Power-hungry heroine

Bookworm rates trending book


photo credit: Gloria Olajimi

Critical contemplation \\ A new wave of book recommendations infiltrates BookTok every week- but which stories are worth the read? The review below analyses one story that has TikTok readers completely enraptured- “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black.

writer: Gloria Olajimi, Editor-in-Chief

Picture this: a human girl in a world of immortal creatures who wants nothing more than to gain power and must defy the authority of the royal general, the High King, and his wicked son to make a name for herself. A highly requested book from some friends and TikTok, The Cruel Prince was my latest read; to my surprise, the story exceeded my expectations. Here’s a spoiler-free review of Holly Black’s first book in The Folk of the Air trilogy; I will rate the plot, the characters and the theme based on a scale from one to five stars. 

For starters, the plot in the story developed intricately and thoroughly- Black brought the mythical world of Faerie to life through elaborate imagery of scenery, a colorful cast of magical creatures, and engaging politics. Admittedly, the story doesn’t pick up much momentum until Part Two; the first part was filled primarily with exposition. However, the exposition provided necessary background on the characters’ lives, personalities and motives to establish a foundation for the rest of the story, which was filled with dramatic twists and turns and kept readers at the edge of their seats up until the cliffhanger at the very end. For its slow-paced, yet fascinating storyline, the plot of The Cruel Prince deserves four stars.

Even though they are fictitious beings, Black made her characters feel as genuine as real people with their own traditions, lifestyles and flaws.

— Gloria Olajimi, copy editor


The Cruel Prince had a wide variety of characters- faeries, ogres, pixies, generals, kings and spies. Even though they are fictitious beings, Black made her characters feel as genuine as real people with their own traditions, lifestyles and flaws. Arguably the best character of the book was the protagonist, a human girl named Jude Duarte who isn’t quite a villain or hero. She backstabbed and killed and fought against many- loved ones even- for the sake of a world that discriminated against humans but more so to gain respect and authority over all the land. There’s nothing better than a morally ambiguous protagonist, and for that, I give this category five stars.

This brings me to the final category, theme. In the book, Black ventures into the theme of power- how quickly it increases, how swiftly it corrupts sound principles, and how easy it is to lose. Humans are the lowliest of the creatures in Faerie and despite her mortality, Jude strives to make her life meaningful. She learns, however, that she could only attain this at the expense of her dearest relationships and her own morality. It was eye-opening to follow Jude’s journey of self-discovery and her internal battle to comply with the monster she became the more power she gained- easily five-star worthy.  

For its sinuous storyline, well-written characters and the not-quite hero’s journey, The Cruel Prince propels The Folk of the Air series with an impressive 4:5:5 rated start and leaves this bookworm eager to read the rest of the trilogy.