Book Review - The Wicked King by Holly Black
The wicked king is the second book in the Folk of Air series by Holly Black and is bubbling with betrayals and plot-twisting revelations soon to be uncovered from the deep. After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her 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.
Picking up, where it left off from the cruel prince, Jude Duarte has now sacrificed everything in order to have the power she once so desired. Cardan is crown king; however, nobody knows the strings of his judgments are controlled by Jude, his seneschal. While the rest of the kingdom rejoices at the new ruler, the hate between Jude and Cardan grows stronger, and soon Cardan is taking every moment he can to embarrass and humiliate Jude.
Meanwhile, Cardan’s only family; his brother Prince Balekin is locked up in jail, yet still manages to manipulate the guards to send messages to his younger brother, in order for his release. Jude visits Balekin herself, but doesn’t get the information she wanted out of him; so instead she kidnaps a guard and interrogates him at the court of shadows, where he insists, he doesn’t know anything about the message.
He offers Jude some valuable information in exchange for his freedom, Jude agrees and comes to know that Balekin is communicating with the Queen of the Undersea. Jude is shocked as the queen’s daughter is good friends with the High king; Nicasia, and Cardan. Jude promises the guard a better job in exchange for more information about Balekin.
When heading up to her room, she finds her twin Taryn, who doesn’t apologize straight away but makes it clear she wants to make up with her sister. Taryn pleas Jude to attend her wedding with Locke, despite the fude over him in the past and Jude reluctantly agrees.
Later the Ghost brings Jude to Cardan’s room, only to find the High King, the master of revels (Locke), and two other courtiers drunk, while the rest of the room is wrecked, and a part of it on fire. Jude orders everyone out of the room and consults him on what’s wrong. Cardan then directs her to the two arrows which are stuck in the bed. Cardan claims that someone had tried to shoot him, and then disappeared into the walls. After exploring his room, they find a secret passage that leads down to late King Eldred’s chambers.
Jude steps into the room and finds Nicasia on the bed crying. After telling her she could be killed for trying to shoot the king, Nicasia confesses that she wasn’t trying to aim for Cardan and that her mother, the Queen of the Undersea wants her to marry Cardan. Shocked by this new information, Nicasia leaves, leaving Jude wandering about what the Queen of the sea might be plotting in the depth of her underwater kingdom.
What was the Queen Orlagh planning, and more importantly, how will Jude keep power over Cardan if a queen ruled by his side? What was Nicasia doing in the palace in the first place? And how can Jude protect everyone she loves and keep power?
After finishing reading the Cruel prince, I was practically itching to know what Jude would do in the next book, or how Jude and Cardan’s relationship has gone from reluctant allies/ almost friends to enemies. I was hardly disappointed as the wicked king picks up 3 months from where The Cruel Prince leaves off; and it would be an understatement to say they can stand each other’s presence at the very least. And if you haven’t read the cruel prince yet, I recommend reading that book before continuing with this review.
In the wicked king, we get to explore the complicated relationship between Cardan and Jude. In my review of the wicked king, I talked about how each character has a brilliantly developed personality which adds up perfectly with their past. In the last book, we get to see the fierce, bold, and daring part of Jude, the one which replaced the fear and cold dread of her childhood personality.
When reading the wicked king, however, we get to see how truly scared and worried Jude is, and the fact that she isn’t the reckless and power-longing girl in the cruel prince. Instead in the wicked king, we get to see Jude Duarte’s absolute mountain of emotions, ranging from fear of Cardan finding a loophole through her commandments; still feeling attracted to him; worry about how to maintain her power; guilt from betraying everyone she cares about; and slight jealously.
I have loved exploring Jude, and how she reacts to different situations, and if like anything more than reading, it’s diving deeper, and really seeing a character’s raw emotions come through. And I think it’s important to understand these raw emotions, especially if said character always wears their emotions as armor.
“Power is much easier than it is to acquire than it is to hold on to.”
-Jude Duarte, the Wicked King
The whole, theme, of this book, is the fact that power is easier to acquire than it is to hold on to, and along with the tension between Cardan and Jude, the plot is mainly ground on political tension between the Undersea and the land. So, putting the romance aside, I enjoyed gambling on what Jude’s next move would be, to not only secure her power but also protect the entire kingdom. But after a truly shocking revelation, it was Cardan in the end who actually held of the war. And it was a good reminder of Cardan’s personality he makes himself look foolish, however, he is as smart and cunning as the rest of the Folk.
“He looks up at me with his night-colored eyes, beautiful and terrible all at once. “For a moment,” he says, “I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.”
I make a face at him. “And what made you decide it wasn’t?”
He grins up at me. “They missed.”
-Cardan Greenbriar and Jude Duarte, The Wicked King
Another thing I felt needed to be brought up was the fact that Jude is having constant flashbacks on her mortal parents, and her life before she knew about faerie. Constantly remembering things her father used to say, or things they used to do together. But she also remembers the valuable lessons Madoc teaches her, and her training by the general when she was a child. I really appreciate Holly Black for giving us snippets of Jude’s childhood, and the fact that she hasn’t put it all behind her, including the trauma.
And although this is an insignificant detail, I have to again give a mention to the wonderful poems at the start of each part in the book, thoroughly enjoyed dissecting each line of those poems, to see if it will give any hints as to where the plot might lead to.
In conclusion, reading the plot twists, the beautiful pain, shared through Jude and Cardan, as well as the constant brawl with power, I give this book a five out of five.
About the author
Holly Black is a bestselling author for children, and teen fantasy novels, and was born in New Jersey, USA. She has written over thirty novels for both teens and kids, as well as having her books, translated into over 32 different languages around the world. She has won the Mythopoeic Award, a Nebula, and a Newbery Honor. She is a New York Times bestselling author. Her first novel, Tithe, was released in 2002 and is the first book in The Modern Faerie tales series. Holly Black is the author of the Folk of Air series, which includes; The Cruel Prince, The wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. She is currently living in England, along with her husband, son, and a secret library!