Full disclosure: as I am writing this review, I would like to make it clear that I've only finished the book within the last hour. And I am not in a state well enough to even think of a good title aside from the following:
What the Actual Fuck Holly Black?!
Another disclosure: This review is NOT SPOILER FREE! For the spoiler free version, check out my socials:
The Wicked King is the sequel to the Cruel Prince and is the second installment in the Folk of the Air series written by Holly Black. It revolves around the events that follow Jude's betrayal of Cardan's trust by having her little brother Oak—of the Greenbriar line crown Cardan as High King of Faerie. Having the upper hand, Jude commands Cardan and tries to run the whole of Elfhame as Cardan's seneschal in secret, conceive a plan to extend Cardan's vow to her for more than a year and a day, confront her twin Taryn's betrayal and upcoming nuptials, Madoc's looking presence, a scheming Balekin, all the while battling her treacherous feelings for the High King.
This review will be divided into five parts as per usual: character building, world building, theme, plot and conclusion.
To start with, I found the character building in The Wicked King to be somewhat similar to the way it was in The Cruel Prince. Every character was given great chances for growth, redemption and allowed to stand completely by themselves as uniquely as possible. I especially found it completely frustrating to see Jude so hesitant to try and express her feelings for Cardan, I feel equally frustrated with the way Cardan acts like a little child most of the time. However, it can be fairly said that this is exactly what their characters would do.
It was also upsetting to see Cardan's not-so-subtle innuendos, however, I am extremely upset at what Cardan did at the end. I am waiting for a redemption scene and I just can not wait to see what truly happened or what is running around in Cardan's wine addled mind.
Moving on to the world-building, I immensely enjoyed the peek we get the undersea kingdom. However, I can confidently say, Elfhame was not painted as vividly as it was in the first book. However, I can also say that the loss of descriptions were made up for in trying to immerse you in the actual happenings in Elfhame which, ultimately, allowed me to understand more about the customs of the Folk and how they'd react to certain situations. Therefore, I'd say that the world-building was more experience-focused than actually trying to lure you into Faerieland which I believe is essential to the sequel since the actual surroundings were thoroughly explored in the first book and would have seemed repetitive in further installments.
Next on the checklist is the theme—in The Wicked King, politics is a main player in the theme of the book. There's also the not-so-fun conflicts within Jude and the Court of Shadows, betrayals and of course, her feelings toward Madoc, Taryn, Locke and inevitably—Cardan.
I feel the book tackled many underlying themes throughout it's timeline: racism, slavery, displays of some carefully picked out deadly sins, etc. Not once did I feel like a scene was either out of place or over reaching. If The Cruel Prince gave me the giddiness of reminiscing my childhood favorites, The Wicked King took away my happiness and replaced it with dread and anger and frustration. I fear it may have turned me into Jude.
Moreover, the plot of the book itself was slightly non-existent. I feel like there was no clear direction in which it was heading except to try and answer all the questions placed in your head in the beginning of the book (ie. What happened to Balekin? How do they defeat the Undersea? What the fuck is up with Nicasia's "Someone you trust has already betrayed you" crap.) and replacing it with some equally frustrating new ones (ie. WHAT THE FUCK CARDAN?!).
In conclusion, I believe The Wicked King has ruined me until I can get my hands on Queen of Nothing. I can feel it quietly hissing at me in the back of my mind even after 5 hours of finishing the book. The book lacked a clear plot and resolution but I suppose that can be chalked up to it essentially being a prequel to the next sequel. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this addition and look forward to Queen of Nothing.
Final Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟