Book Review: The Wicked King

Title: The Wicked King

Author: Holly Black

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 2 of 3

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The Book Depository | Booktopia | Dymocks


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Allen and Unwin in exchange for an honest rview. This review will contain spoilers for the first book, The Cruel Prince. It will be spoiler-free for The Wicked King itself.


Ahhh, back to world of Elfhame, once ruled by faeries who are as cruel as they are capricious. Since the end of The Cruel Prince, Jude Duarte, a mortal girl, now dictate the fate of faerie-land from the shadows. Her proxy is a chaotic and unpredictable King Cardan, who has ideas of his own about the rule of Elfhame. Watching these characters grapple with their newfound positions was an absolute delight, especially as it is accompanied by the deadliest will-they-or-won’t-they known to YA. The result is an addictive page-turner that left me reeling and begging for more by the last pages.

First, I’ll discuss the one negative that led me to giving Wicked King a lower rating than its predecessor. I felt the character development was comparatively stagnant in this book, especially for Jude. Perhaps this was a result of the plot being revolved around political machinations and deception, even more so than in the last book. This led Jude to appear lacking in self-awareness at several points in the novel, whether it was in her relationships with her family, her fellow Shadow Court members, or with Cardan. Despite gaining a significant amount of power in this book, she lacked influence from the beginning and the plot did very little to navigate this issue. In general, this is common issue among the middle-book of most trilogies, because authors have to build up ground and maintain enough conflict for the final instalment.

Despite the issue with character growth, I still found myself relishing in every single character interactions. Jude has such great chemistry with everyone, and the undercurrent of tension beneath each line of dialogue is palpable. Our heroine has always had a complicated relationship with her oppressors, whether Madoc – both father and murderer of her biological parents, or Cardan – who evokes from Jude both a deep sense of self-loathing and desire. Such relationships are a manifestation of Jude’s own tempestuous bond to Elfhame: a place she yearns to call him but which continually marginalises her. It’s little wonder that her character resonates with me, despite her dubious moral compass.

World-building wise, we certainly see an expansion of faerie land within this book, including a glimpse into the Undersea. Political ties become increasingly strenuous as more parties emerged, all interested in testing the mettle of the new High King and his mortal seneschal. There’s also plenty of allusions to events of the past involving Jude’s parents, thickening the plot and setting the scene for the final book. However, I did feel that certain parts of the world-building felt lacking. Despite the numerous new locales we are introduced to, the world did not feel enriched by them.

Where the book truly shined was in the final arc of the novel, which was reminiscent to The Cruel Prince in the way the plot twisted and turned. If you thought the ending of the first book was cruel, wait until you finish this one. Go forth and join me in death until The Queen of Nothing arrives.


Have you read The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King? How do you think the sequel measures up to the first book?

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Wicked King

  1. I felt that The Wicked King suffered from being slightly shorter than The Cruel Prince – I did just want more, partly because I’m selfish but also because of the issues of character development that you touched upon! I wish more had been done to unpack the problematic aspects of Jude and Cardan’s relationship, it was definitely addressed but also felt brushed under the carpet a little. I think actually addressing the toxicity in their relationship full-on would’ve provided the character development problem a little

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    1. Yeah, I definitely felt the short page length for this one. You are so right regarding Jude and Cardan, I felt things barely developed between them and they had more significant moments in the last book. This one he just got a bit of a sob-story about his childhood and then???? I hope their relationship is addressed and fleshed out further in the next one.

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      1. SO much of what I loved about The Cruel Prince was the fact that there was no excuses for toxic masculinity and abuse like in other YA – that amazing section where Jude says sarcastically “now that I’ve kissed you everything is fine” and basically shuts that down. I knew The Wicked King would dial that back a little because they are such obvious OTP material but I was sad that it was taken away almost entirely. I also felt that the ‘I hate you’ scene was so rushed: I liked Jude’s focus on vulnerability which felt really in character, but if it is such a huge genuine concern for her I would’ve expected more conversations/interactions to get her to that point of trust. I just wished they had more interactions in general, both from a shipper trash perspective but also just because there’s so much left there to address.

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  2. Great review Aentee! I haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of your posts in a while (because I haven’t bee blog hopping in a while) so I really enjoyed this. I wasn’t enamoured with The Cruel Prince, but I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, which my library are ordering in and reserving for me 🙂

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  3. Everyone seems to think the ending of this one is shocking and while I admit I didn’t see it coming, I also didn’t really have any reaction to it. I guess because it’s not clear what the story arc is from here. Sure, she wants to go back to where she was, but do I have a sense of what that will entail? No. It could actually be easy if she’s invited back. I also think a lot of the tension is predicated on Jude’s belief that she, personally, must run every single aspect of the kingdom or else everything will fall apart but that’s clearly not true, so do I care if there are some obstacles preventing her from doing that? Not really.

    I did enjoy the book and gave it four stars, as well, but I guess I’m agreeing that Jude is a bit oblivious and missing the part where some other people can actually get things done, too.

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  4. Ahh I’m so excited to read this!! I absolutely love fantasy books that are quite political. I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince (the second half, wasn’t too keen on the first half), so I can’t wait to read this!

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