Tag Archives: Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, paperback novel, 370 pages, published by Hot Key Books in 2018.

Jude is a mortal in the Faerie world, raised by Madoc, war chief to the High King, along with her sisters, Taryn and Vivi. Of the three, only Vivi is Fey, the birth daughter of Madoc. Her younger sisters are both mortal, but parentless, thanks to Madoc’s wrath. However, Madoc treats them as his own, raising them among the Fey gentry. This does not sit well with many of the Fey nobles, as they prefer their mortals to be their slaves, rather than their equals. Political change is in the air, and Jude finds herself caught up in the power struggle to be the next High King.

I found it took a little while for me to really get into this story, but once it got going I really enjoyed it. At first it seemed to be a story of some cruel teenage Fey tormenting the only mortals in their school class. While the feud was escalating and I was impressed by Jude’s determination to continue to defy Prince Cardan, I was much happier once there was spying, stealing, and murder plots, treachery and treason! It became much more exciting, and I could hardly put it down. It seemed there was no end to the Fey’s capacity for inflicting pain and humiliation on others for amusement, nor did they reserve this behaviour only for their enemies. A truly interesting and terrifying group. This did make for much action within a fast-paced, exciting story.

I found most of the characters dislikable in many ways. There is much to dislike about Cardan; he is arrogant, mean, vindictive, evilly cunning… the list really could go on, and his noble friends are almost as despicable. There isn’t much going for the other princes either. As for Madoc, he is a true general of war, delighting in bloodshed and strategy. Yet, strangely, Madoc was a character that I could connect with; he was ‘bad’ in many ways, but he owned his decisions, and he was absolutely loyal to his family. Taryn annoyed me with her too timid attitude and her disloyalty to Jude, while Oriana was a bit too distant, and kind of awkward with the girls. And Jude. What can I say about Jude? Well, I really wanted to like her, but she does not make it easy. Her determination and bravery are commendable, and she cares deeply for her family, even loving Madoc despite all he has done. Yet, she is kind of abrasive and prickly, with streaks of a cruelty and fondness for power that could undo her. There weren’t really ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys in this story.

The Cruel Prince is most suitable for middle to upper high school students, given the level of violence throughout the book. And it is only the first in a new series, so there will be more bloodshed to be had in Faerie shortly. Yay!

Doll Bones by Holly Black

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IMG_2738Doll Bones by Holly Black, paperback novel, 244 pages, first published by Doubleday in 2013, this edition published by Corgi in 2014.

Best friends, Zach, Alice and Poppy have made up a fantastical world that they play out with dolls and figurines. The Queen in this world is a very old, fine bone china doll, that is kept displayed behind glass at Poppy’s house. When Zach unexpectedly refuses to play the game any more, Poppy and Alice remove the Queen from the cabinet, discovering that she is full of what appears to be some ashes. Poppy dreams that the Queen was really a girl called Eleanor Kercher who died in 1895, and she wants Poppy to return her to her grave. This quest leads Poppy, Alice and Zach on an interstate adventure, as they try to placate Eleanor, and fulfill her last desire.

Doll Bones is an adventure ghost story, and it is also a coming of age story. Zach, Poppy and Alice are pre-teens still playing out the fantasy game of their childhood. Becoming haunted by the spirit of a lost and angry little girl trapped inside a doll, is the last true adventure of their childhood, as they move towards more teenagerish past-times. They embark on an epic quest into regions unknown in the middle of the night by themselves, vastly unprepared for such a journey. Add in a creepy doll, vivid dreams, unexplained occurences and misadventures, and you have a spooky tale indeed.

This would be a good book for middle and upper primary school students to read, especially those that like a good ghost story. I thought the story was okay, but nothing spectacular. It was an easy read, and interesting enough, but I didn’t find it gripping. I am putting that down to the fact that as an adult I like a good horror or mystery story, and spooky stories for children just aren’t spooky enough for me! Having said that, I always take photos of the books I review to add to the post, and I took photos of this book, transferred them to the computer, but when I went to add one to this review, the photos were all blank! That’s a little creepy coincidence…

I hope that my second grader will give Doll Bones a read so I can get a true child’s perspective on the story. The story did flow well, and the character’s personalities really came through from the story, so it was a good book that I think many children would enjoy.