My first introduction to Holly Black was The Coldest Girl in Cold Town, and I have definitely enjoyed all her novels I’ve read since then. Considering how amazing her vampire novel was, I’m surprised she has stuck with faerie novels since then but they, too, are amazing. I loved the first novel in this trilogy, The Cruel Prince, and I can’t wait for November when the final novel comes out.
About five months after placing Cardan on the throne, Jude is burning the candle at both ends, and worried about what balls she might drop. She trusts very few people and doesn’t know how to view her relationship with the new High King, and it’s starting to wear on her. She also knows her time of control over the king is almost halfway over with his oath only covering her for one year and a day, and she is terrified of what will happen then. What if he enjoys being king and doesn’t want to give it up? How can she extend the oath to maintain control? Who can she trust?
It doesn’t help that the Undersea is attempting to get into the game, assuming that a new and young king will be easy to control. She simply can’t get a read on Cardan – sometimes, he is mostly resistant to her and barely plays along or tries to challenge her subtly, but other times she sees signs of potential in him, even if he resents the promise she forced from him. Jude still hasn’t rebuilt her relationship with her twin sister Taryn, and she and her sister’s husband continue to have a rather contemptuous relationship given his betrayal of Jude’s trust in the last novel.
I mostly enjoyed this novel, though Jude’s inability to trust or find allies is frustrating. Of course being involved in the politics of Faerie, her judgement isn’t entirely off, but I do wonder if she had approached things differently, she might have been able to build better/stronger alliances and loyalties. There are a lot of plots and double crossing going on in this one, and some of it is interesting, but some of it definitely feels like middle book syndrome designed to extend the story before getting to the amazing final chapters that set the stage for the next novel.
The Lost Sisters is a novella telling the story of The Cruel Prince from Taryn’s perspective. It is a bit of an apology, but also shows how Taryn made her choices which were very different from Jude’s. Jude’s approach was defiance, training to become a warrior, while Taryn worked to avoid attention with the goal of finding a promising marriage. She explains how she let Locke convince her to stand by as proof of her love and devotion to him while he played with Jude’s emotions. Honestly, while Jude has her flaws, Taryn’s justifications do not place her in a positive light. Before The Cruel Prince revealed her betrayal, she was easy to read as the sister hurt in the crossfires of Jude’s competitions, when in fact it was Taryn that made Jude a target. Both sisters began keeping secrets from each other in Faerie, but it isn’t until they are in their teens that they realize how far they have drifted. Taryn is not a victim, as much as she might like to think it even as she regrets her actions, and Cardan is one of the few to call her out on it. I like when authors release short stories or novellas that show actions and stories from another perspective, and I liked that even though Black shares Taryn’s point of view, she still doesn’t make her overly sympathetic. I didn’t read it until after The Wicked King, even though it was released beforehand, which may have also affected my view differently than if I’d read them in the release order.