Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Wicked King by Holly Black: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King, the second book in Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, is as brilliant as the first. It starts five months after the events at the end of the first book when Judy, the human raised in the faerie land, tricked her worst enemy, Prince Cardan, into becoming the king of the faerie to protect her little brother. By now she’s beginning to see the wisdom of her stepfather’s teaching that it’s easier to gain power than to keep it. She has more friends and allies than in the first book, but she can’t trust any of them, the least of all the king himself, who hates her for the geas she’s put on him that forces him to obey her commands. It doesn’t help her that she’s finding him increasingly alluring.

The threat to her little brother hasn’t passed, and there are enemy forces who want to either take the crown or declare a war, or both. As a human among the faerie, Judy don’t have the same powers as her enemies, so she has to rely on her own strengths, but those begin to dwindle as the enemies gain in strength. And then her sister’s wedding brings her brother back to faerie, and all her careful plans seem to come to nothing. The twist at the end is worthy of any scheming faerie. Waiting for the third book is going to be difficult.

Judy is in a better place in this second book than in the first. She has power and she doesn’t constantly have to fight the cruel faeries who love to see her humiliated. That doesn’t mean there are no gut-wrenching moments in this book, but they are fewer than in the first book. Judy is more sympathetic character in this book than the first though, so every set-back feels worse.

The book is marketed as suitable for middle-grade and young adult. With this I have to disagree. The characters may be in their late teens, but they have to deal with adult problems, power and war, and are treated as adults able to marry etc. There are no graphic sex scenes, but there is plenty of graphic violence, on top of which there are scenes of abuse, mental and physical. Just because this is fantasy written by a woman, doesn’t make it suitable for younger readers. This is book for adults with a young protagonist and should be treated as such.

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