The Wicked King by Holly Black
Published January 8th by Hot Key Books
“Kiss me until I am sick of it”
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.
(Also this review will contain no spoilers for The Wicked King, I cannot guarantee any non spoiler content for the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince.)
I read the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince on release last year after being super excited for when Holly Black herself told us all about it at the event with her and Cassandra Clare the year before and for those who have seen the review I did for it on YouTube last year you’ll know how much I loved it and it really heightened my love for the Hate/Love troupe and for potentially morally ambiguous murder girls like Jude. So suffice to say I’ve been pretty excited for this sequel since the moment I read the last page of The Cruel Prince and although I wasn’t able to get this one dead on release day this time, I did get it a week later and absolutely devour it the moment I got it and at every available opportunity afterwards until I finished it.
The Wicked King has a similar tone to The Cruel Prince but with much higher stakes, the way Jude is treated as Seneschal to the High King is obviously different to how she was treated as a mortal child, weather “daughter” of the high general or not but she still faces the same kind of degradation and mocking, it’s just a lot more underhanded but no less impactful. What does change the way a lot of these moments play out is Jude’s reaction to these occurrences and how her actions in retaliation can have a larger ripple affect in all of her plans and potentially the future of Elfhame. I enjoyed the new dynamic as I always used to read a lot of Historical Fiction with a large amount of under handed court scheming and the like so this felt like very familiar territory and done especially well i that style that Holly Black has where she can make everything seem beautiful and mesmerising yet deadly and terrifying all at once.
We got to see a lot more of the inner workings of the High Kings court in The Wicked King then we did via the Court of Shadows previously which I found interesting but occasionally they were sandwiched in between some other really tantalising part of the story and I found myself racing through those parts to get back to it, a little like most of the Sansa Stark chapters in the Game of Thrones books (unrelated note – Sansa is so much more awesome in the show). This wasn’t a huge problem by any means but I think it might have affected my rating a little because it sticks out in my mind as making the middle feel a little slow or frustrating which is crazy because they were still written well and fairly interesting they just had the misfortune to be placed between parts I was desperate to get back to. That being this may have a just been a great tension building technique that may have gone over my head.
Locke, Cardan and Jude were all brilliantly terrible as they were originally, by terrible I mean I like that everyone is morally grey and for want of a better term to describe them “chaotic neutral” in that they are just as much likely to stab you in the face as help you depending on their mood and thanks to Holly this is easily becoming one of my favourite types of characters. I love that Cardan is so hard to read, for Jude and for me as the reader, there’s just something about feeling like you can never truly trust any of these characters that I adore and Cardan is one hundred percent the best example of that. Taryn was another character I think excelled in The Wicked King, especially in the latter half of the book, I found her quite irritating in The Cruel Prince and although we see less of her in the sequel, what we do see of her is brilliant.
I won’t speak too much on the ‘relationship’ between Jude and Cardan but although I know the “I hate you because I love/want you” is not a healthy basis for a real life relationship in any way shape or form, especially with the lengths of cruelty and manipulation these two can take it too but that is the beauty of Fiction because for these characters especially it suits so well and I’m so very here for it, especially with it being a very two way thing between them both. Also the quote “Kiss me until I’m sick of it” is probably one of my top ten favourite quotes of all time.
As expected I was completely blown away by the last one hundred pages and made the mistake of staying up late to finish it as I couldn’t put it down and then being unable to sleep for thinking “well, what comes next” for the next two hours. If you loved or enjoyed The Cruel Prince I definitely recommend picking up its sequel for more of the same great content but with higher stakes, more Jude murdering, more Jude and Cardan, more fae scheming and back stabbing – lots of my favourite things.