Released in North America on January 8th, 2019, The Wicked King by Holly Black is the sequel to her massively popular The Cruel Prince, which was released last year.
“You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself strong” – The Wicked King, Holly Black
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished. When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. The characters, the writing, the romance, and the darkness of the world Holly Black built in The Cruel Prince were undeniably attractive, and they were all masterfully woven together into something remarkable. And The Wicked King is no different. Each page is a masterful piece in a growing tale, the characters are delightfully wicked, and the world is stunningly luscious.
Jude and Cardan make for alluring and powerful protagonists (albeit quite morally grey protagonists), and it is their relationship/interactions that really drew me into this book. Independently, they’re both a mess. Jude is struggling under the pressure of being the shadow-ruler of Faerie, and grappling with all the horrors she witnessed – and is still witnessing. Cardan is a rebellious child, surly and morose under Jude’s control, acting out by drinking, by partying, and by engaging in all sorts of debauchery – just as any rebellious teenager might do. Together, they’re a mess. A beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless. Because once again the reader is forced to watch two truly deeply damaged individuals fight their obviously growing feelings for one another, simply because they lack the fundamental key to a healthy relationship: trust.
The characters weren’t the only endearing part of this tale – though Jude and Cardan are certain to capture hearts and attention. The setting of Faerie is also lavish and luscious, filled to the brim with magic and mystery. The dark powers of the Faerie Realm are still as prominent as ever, and just as twisted and sinister as they were in The Cruel Prince. The Fae are wicked and cruel, just as likely to help Jude as they were to kill her – Cardan included. There are Fae of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, both Seelies and Unseelie, High and Low Fae. There’s the intrigue of a bloodthirsty court of High Fae, and the power of familial struggles, all jumbled together in a complex and powerful world that will suck readers in as surely as Faerie has snared Jude.
Perhaps the one thing I was quite disappointed about in this novel was the pacing of the plot. I found that the pacing for The Wicked King was quite slow to start off, and certainly a bit less engaging than I expected/hoped. It was important to develop new characters in that time, but I was hoping for a more fast paced plot to start off. Beyond that, once the pacing picked up, I felt that the story was quite rushed, basically sprinting towards the conclusion with no breathing room. More action in the beginning, and some exposition in the later portion of the book, would have certainly helped with the pacing issues, and made this a more enjoyable read right from the get-go.
Overall, I quite enjoyed The Wicked King by Holly Black, but it certainly wasn’t a perfect read, no matter how astonishing and powerful the last chapter was. The characters that Black created are delightfully wicked, and the world is stunningly luscious, but unfortunately the pacing of the plot made it difficult to really get into the story early on (4/5).