Review: The Wicked King

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

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.

Did this book just come out yesterday (or, for me as I write this, today)? Yes. Did I tell myself I would savor it, but instead read it in one sitting? Yes. Was this book that good? Yes. Do I have an unashamedly large girl crush on Holly Black? Yes. And would I sell my mortal soul for Cardan? More than likely (who are we kidding: yes).

Everything that made The Cruel Prince such a wonderfully vivid, captivating story, was strong in this book, almost more so, honestly. I received this book with the OwlCrate special edition box (wait for a review of that in February!), which included an author’s note. In the note two things stood out to me; 1) Black’s conviction that the middle novel of a trilogy is the unsung hero, and is frequently as strong, if not more so, like the other novels (which is definitely true in this case, and 2) The Cruel Prince centralized around Jude finding power, whilst The Wicked King was about what lengths she’d go to keep it.

The book directly paralleled the plot of The Cruel Prince with some of the most interesting, complex character development and world building I have ever read. Those of you who are fans of Leigh Bardugo, especially the original Grishaverse trilogy, need to read this series. We Darkling/Alina shippers are the same that are weirdly obsessed with Jude/Cardan (because, why love the good guy when the bad guy looks so good in black, ammiright?). Every character in this book is someone that, in the ‘mortal world,’ would be undeniably a horrible person. However, through the eyes of the fae, everything from morals to love is warped, leaving Jude and Cardan to both struggle with the culture they were brought up in, what they truly believe is right, and the lengths they will go to to ensure they have the upperhand.

The fae and the mortal are so connected, yet so different, and seeing their worlds overlap adds a very interesting dynamic to the world that few ‘fairytale’ type stories have. We have very traditional fae (and merfolk (count me in!!!!)) in this trilogy, and we watch them living precariously in balance with the modern day, American world. It is fascinating, to say the least, and I am quick to believe Black’s interpretation is close to what the reality would be.

Overall, I am 100% sold into this series; Black’s genius with these morally complex characters and their vivid, magical worlds is intoxicating. I couldn’t put the book down, no matter how much I wanted to (basically Jude/Cardan right there, ammiright? Okay, I’ll stop). I was left guessing and scheming with the characters until the final pages, which are pages I was very hurt and offended by that I don’t think I will be able to recover from for a very long time. 2020, you are much too far away for my liking.

All and all, I could go on about this book for pages. However, I believe that a huge part of the experience with Black’s work is just how unpredictably lush it is, and I do not want to spoil one word of it for you all, so just… go buy it already, okay?

Is it too early to pick this as my favorite book of the year? January is going to be great (especially with King of Scars and my bae Nikolai around the corner).

5 out of 5.


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