Can I have a Sequel Sunday that’s actually posted on time? My plan for this little blog series was that I’d post every first Sunday of the month but I don’t think I’ve ever did that since I started this thing. I mean, I know that no one really cares (or, let’s face it, reads this damn series) but it annoys me to no end that I can’t follow my own schedule. I may not seem like it but I’m actually quite the stickler for time. I’m that friend who’s always the first one to show up in a meet up. Growing up in a city that’s plagued with traffic everywhere all the time has really honed my instinct to be very aware of time. And yet, here I am, in the middle of the month, not even Sunday. Sigh.
Alright, the mandatory self-deprecating opening paragraph is over. Let’s talk about this book. It’s no secret that I adore Holly Black. I may not have enjoyed my first book of her (Tithe… it was meh) but I’ve always had a profound respect for her because she really knows how to craft a story. I read The Cruel Prince in one sitting and I genuinely couldn’t pry my eyes from the page. It was that good.
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Wicked King since it was released in January of this year. The only reason why I didn’t read it earlier was because I wanted to hold it off for this series. And now that I have, well, I have some thoughts on it.
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.
Just like with the first book of the Folk of the Air trilogy, I was absolutely enraptured by The Wicked King. There was a palpable sense of dread that pervaded throughout the book and, I kid you not, I was afraid to turn the page in more than just a few instances so I had to put the book down to calm myself. Holly Black really knows how to capture her readers like that.
What I noticed about this sequel though was that it’s considerably shorter than the first book. Or at least it sure feels like it. The Cruel Prince took us on a long journey of espionage, political intrigue, and (a lot of) murder that it felt like the book was longer than it actually was. The Wicked King, on the other hand, felt more like a weekend getaway, over just as quickly as it begun.
Nevertheless, I loved The Wicked King and all of its twists and turns. Jude’s struggle to balance the court, her family, her league of spies, and her weird relationship with Cardan was really stressful to envision. I can hardly get my boring life together and this mortal teenager constantly has to outsmart the immortal beings around her if she wants to survive. Pretty heavy stuff.
A lot of people hardcore ship Jude and Cardan and while I get the appeal, personally… I don’t feel the same. I definitely find their relationship fascinating and I can’t wait to see how these two will interact in the next book but it just seems to me that their relationship is too toxic to be worth it. There’s literally too much bad blood between them and I can’t imagine them ever reconciling to a point where they can have a healthy and respectful relationship. Of course, maybe Holly Black can redeem the two for each other. Who knows? Either way, please don’t come for me, Jude/Cardan stans.
Overall, this book was insanely good and lived up to the hype. But the question remains, is it better than the first book?
the Cruel Prince vs The Wicked King
This is going to be a tough one because I loved the two books but I’ll try as best as I can to compare the two.
The Cruel Prince was enthralling from the get-go. We open with Jude witnessing her human parents being murdered and things don’t slow down from there. For most of the book, Jude has to fight to be respected by the fairies and we feel her fear and her determination as she grows as a person. There’s so much mystery and intrigue in this first book that when shit went down halfway through the novel, I was terrified but also intrigued. Basically, this book had me constantly on guard but also in awe of the High Court… not unlike Jude’s feelings for the faeries.
The Wicked King picked up a couple of months after where the first book ended. Jude has more power than she could ever dream of yet she’s still in great danger. It quickly becomes obvious that Jude bit off more than she could chew and a part of me wished that she’d just leave Elfhame for the mortal realm just so Jude wouldn’t have to look over her shoulder 24/7. However, Jude’s as a character is too determined to quit and she genuinely wants to give her brother a fighting chance – I couldn’t help but love her for that. This sequel was non-stop action, with few and brief quieter scenes sprinkled throughout which really made the story feel so quick. There isn’t much emphasis on the worldbuilding anymore – the first book already established most of that – but I sort of found it a shame because Elfhame is really beautiful, as terrifying as it is. I think that’s what I missed the most from the first book.
Somehow it seems like so much happened in the first book that when it comes to the second book, there wasn’t that much left to tell. Seriously, compared to The Cruel Prince, not a lot happens in The Wicked King. In the sequel, the conflict between the faeries and the mermaids felt kind of abrupt and I get that it’s probably because that war is reserved for the last book but, I don’t know, the sequel felt almost incomplete when compared to the first book.
It took me some time to figure out which I preferred but I think I enjoyed The Cruel Prince more than The Wicked King, if only because the first book had a tighter ending.
The Wicked King kind of highlights the inherent weakness of sequels – they don’t need to try as hard as the first book because the reader is already presumably hooked and they can’t really give it their all because the Big Finale is meant for the last book. Sequels are in this weird limbo where the story keeps going but not too far just yet.
Does it Hold Up?
Absolutely it does. Sure, it’s not as engaging as the first book but it does get me super pumped for the next and last book, Queen of Nothing. I genuinely don’t know how it can end other than in a bloodbath and further betrayal. Should be fun.
And that’s it for this month’s Sequel Sunday! Next up is Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, another of my most anticipated reads of 2019. I feel like Muse of Nightmares won’t have the same problem as I have with The Wicked King because it’s the second and last book of the series. Duologies really have the best of both worlds, it seems like.
Here’s to actually posting the next Sequel Sunday on time!