The Wicked King by Holly Black and published by Hot Key Books is the second book in The Folk of the Air trilogy, sequel to The Cruel Prince. You can read my review of The Cruel Prince here.
The Wicked King takes place five months after the events of The Cruel Prince, narrated again by Jude as she struggles to be Cardan’s seneschal and commander even as threats of war from many sides loom over them. This young adult fantasy series so far has envisioned enemies, love, friendship, betrayal, family dynamics, royal politics, war, and spy strategy.
The author, Holly Black, has written numerous fantasy novels–the most famous of which is probably The Spiderwick Chronicles. She has won the Mythopoeic award, a Nebula, and a Newberry Honor.
I found The Wicked King to be a thrilling read full of twists and turns. It even made me cry and so few books these days do that. I think this sequel might surpass my rating of the first one as thrilling as it was. Though, admittedly, I did find the first one hundred pages to be a bit slow as it delved more into the world of politics and less in the way of action and romance until about halfway through the book.
There were a lot of quotes in this book that stood out to me and I just had to write down. Some quotes that I think can describe a lot of what Jude was facing in this book are:
“The feeling of falling in love is like the feeling of fear.”
“When his blood falls, things grow.”
Also, I did some digging and apparently there is an e-novella called The Lost Sisters by Holly Black and it tells Taryn’s side of the story as her betrothal with Locke pushes her away from Jude. I probably should check that out!
I found the writing style to be all at once captivating but also easy-to-read. A common style for young adult books, as it weaves together the action of the plot and the worries of the narrator. I love how Black can come up with various riddles and faerie deceptions without actually telling a lie–it’s all very clever. Just as the worldbuilding–having a faerie world and a mortal world side by side is difficult in that not only must she come up with a whole other world but also do research on the setting of the mortal world. I think she weaves it together magically. One word that I find came up a lot was ‘tarry,’ but I’m not upset about it because it’s a new word for me. I’m going to start saying to people, ‘Tarry a while with me.’
I also love seeing the character development. As the series continues, it’s interesting to see how strained Jude’s familial relationships become while other ties are strengthened with her friends in the Court of Shadows and even with her enemy, Cardan. Still, it might take a while for her to learn to trust and open up.
There were also various sentences or catchphrases Jude remembers hearing that sets the scene for later dramatic events of the book. For example, Jude remembers as a kid hearing her parents say ‘Choose what hill you want to die on’ and this becomes important later on. I found this very clever and an excellent use of planning.
Overall, I loved this books and the small illustrations like the map in the beginning, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings which really helped set the world in stone. This series is such a highly recommend I cannot stress it enough. It is probably becoming one of my favorite series ever, if not the favorite. (But of course who can have just one favorite?)
While The Wicked King starts off a bit slow, by the end you’ll be gripping the cover, yelling at the characters, and wondering what’s going to happen next.
Five stars out five stars! 5/5
Holly Black’s Twitter here.
Holly Black’s Instagram here.