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Review: The Wicked King (Black)

I am feeling ALL THE LOVE for this series! I’ve come to expect sequels to be a bit less-than their predecessors, but The Wicked King has just as many twists and turns, just as many cruelly-beautiful faerie curses, just as much love-hate from Jude and Cardan, as The Cruel Prince. A must-read for anyone who loves fantasy, faeries, or stellar writing and world-building.

AUTHOR: Holly Black
SERIES: The Folk of the Air, book 2
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown
PUBLICATION DATE: January 8, 2019
ISBN: 9780316310352
PAGES: 336
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: fantasy
SETTING: Faerie, modern day
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS

SUMMARY: It’s been five months since Jude tricked Cardan into becoming her puppet king. Jude may be the true king of Faerie, but changing alliances with the Undersea folk has complicated matters considerably.

REVIEW: Holy freakin’ schmoley, that ending! I just keep thinking about it! Bring on #3!

Holly Black has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and The Good Neighbors were all pretty good, but she hit major home runs with this series and The Darkest Part of the Forest, both set in faerie worlds. I love how she creates characters who are so believably flawed. I love the rich world of Faerie, where rules bind the Fae but not the humans. Where the most beautiful creatures and objects are just as dangerous as the most simple and unassuming ones. Black’s worldbuilding is top-notch; I can picture the cruel, dangerous beauty of Faerie perfectly in my mind.

The complex world-building perfectly complements Black’s morally-flawed characters. Jude is tough, resourceful, and crazy-smart. She fiercely protects her family, even as she plots to keep her powerful and calculating faerie father from causing any more trouble. Why does she do all this? Yeah, yeah, to protect her little brother Oak, I get it. But isn’t it also possible that as someone who has almost no power in the faerie world, Jude is even hungrier to prove to everyone just how much power a weak little human can actually have? Wouldn’t a survivor–someone who’s been severely bullied her whole life–want to find some smidgen of control over those who view her as little more than a toy or a human pet? And wouldn’t she, after painstakingly gaining that control over her oppressors, do everything in her power to retain it? That’s a big ‘ol yes.

I also think (hope!) that there is more to Jude’s twin sister, Taryn. Taryn is so weak and annoyingly-naive that I just want to punch her and her ridiculous boyfriend-fiance-husband Locke. And Cardan, the Wicked King, is truly wicked–or is he? He’s bullied Jude for most of her life, yet he does seem to maybe truly love her, too. Or is it all another one of his awful tricks? There is much more to Cardan than meets the eye. In fact, there is much more to all of them–weak little Taryn included–than meets the eye.

See what I mean? I could dissect these characters’ motives all day long! None of them are good, and none of them are bad. They are who they are, and that’s completely awesome.

THEMES: love/hate relationships, power, politics, faeries, magic

THE BOTTOM LINE: A strong sequel that is not to be missed. The Cruel Prince is a must-read for fans of fantasy novels. This would make a great movie!

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies of The Cruel Prince and two of The Wicked King. Both are checked out constantly. We could easily add more copies. This series is especially popular with my eighth grade girls.



  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: mild; a couple of sh**
  • Sexuality: medium; it’s really more sensuality–fae walk around naked, but it isn’t sexual; nondescript intercourse; kissing; orgies (I know that sounds bad, but they are very much off-the-page)
  • Violence: medium; murder, poisoning, torture–none are descriptive or gory
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; drinking faerie wine at parties, some get drunk; poisoning


  • You really know how to sell a book! Only problem is that I run a 4th-8th gr. library and I'm really on the fence if this is appropriate for my 8th graders. No time to read it right now, but can you give any other details. What's nondescript intercourse actually mean? Orgy? Really? Thank you in advance for any extra clarification you can provide.

    • Hi, there, this is a YA book, and as with any YA books, it depends on your students. Nothing is described in detail (no body parts), and I don't remember the author using the word "orgy." SLJ, Kirkus, and Booklist all recommend Grades 9 and up, but I have 8th graders who have read it and love it. I am in a Grade 6-12 library.


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