Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Series? Yes, 2 of 3
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?