Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Cruel Prince


Book Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Date Started: November 22nd 2017
Date Completed: December 3rd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three Star
Final Rating: Three stars

◆ Thanks to NetGalley for this ebook for review ◆

The Cruel Prince reminded me why I wanted to get away from mainstream Young Adult books - I don't think the whole genre is bad, and I don't necessarily think this book was terrible, but I'm so sick of romance being the only thing that's paid proper attention to in a story. I adored the use of traditional faerie - it's one of the reasons Holly's been such an important writer for me since I was a kid - but that was about all I liked in this one.

In terms of the overall story, I felt like this novel was very repetitive at the start. I'm not a fan of the bullying trope at the best of times (once you've read it once, you know it regardless of if you swap out school books for fairy fruit). The Cruel Prince just had the same scene several times over without much development between them. But then, once you pass the halfway mark, suddenly everything becomes very fast and rushed. The amount of exposition and action shoved into the end of this book was too much - it almost felt like two books pushed into one so there was a build-up at the start.

That being said, my biggest complaint is the romance. If you've been around for a while, you know this isn't a new thing. For some reason that I don't understand considering the idea of female empowerment and independence so many modern YA authors seem to support, romance continues to be all-consuming when it's put in a Young Adult book with a female protagonist. It doesn't happen with the male protagonists - they might have a love interest, but it's generally given a balance of attention. But if a book is targetted towards a female audience, the romance has to get in the way of the heroine's quest. It gets very, very boring.

Amongst this, the romances tend to be really unhealthy in this book. They're explicitly revealed as so (eventually), but they're still treated with such casualness that I couldn't help but be uncomfortable. The man who raises Jude, and who she looks up to (regardless of what she says in her head) literally murdered both her parents in front of her. (That's not a spoiler, it's in the first ten pages.) These unhealthy relationships also get in the way of important ones the protagonist has - most significantly her sisters. Female-to-female relationships are so important, but they're neglected in favour of romance here seemingly without major consequence. Yes, characters can change. But they haven't in the course of this book. Actions speak louder than words.

Although, that also contradicts my next gripe. While the characters don't develop as such, they're too volatile throughout the entirety of this story to be convincing. There were times I didn't understand what was happening because a character had acted so out of the blue - a reveal I didn't realise was a reveal until it was too late because their motivations didn't make sense. Maybe I struggled to understand them because I found them all dislikeable (flawed characters are fine, but horrible people are hard to engage with), but regardless it built up another barrier between me and the story.

I'm really sad I didn't enjoy The Cruel Prince. As I've said, Holly has been a huge figure in my reading since I read The Spiderwick Chronicles, which was one of the first books that got me into reading as a whole. Her exploration of faerie and it's parallels to the real world are always fascinating, I'm just disappointed that the YA cliche of romance got in the way of this one.

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