The Cruel Prince

As you’ll see if you simply scroll down, I did not love this book, and I really wanted to love this book. I picked it up at the Astoria Bookshop at the beginning of the year, close to after it was released, and was ecstatic to grab the last available copy at the store–they were running it for their February Teen Book Club and I thought, well everyone is already talking about this, let me snag it. And I was left wanting a lot more in a book that is highly rated and reviewed on multiple sites.

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Published by Little Brown Books on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Royalty, Power, Identity, Family, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


 

I think we should get all the things I disliked out of the way first, that way I can end on a good note.

First of all, and this is something that bothers me in any book that does it, not just The Cruel Prince, but I am absolutely irritated by any book that participates in any form of branding. The sisters, Vivienne, Taryn, and Jude, grew up in our, mortal world, even though Vivienne is half fae, so at the beginning of the novel, the scene is set that the sisters at a young age are sitting in their regular, mortal home doing regular mortal things that you and I would do. This is fine! There are plenty, plenty of YA and other books I read that are set in the real world and don’t include any supernatural elements. Of course, these books are going to have their protagonists doing “real world things” like watching TV and using the microwave, but the instance an author attaches the specific brand to these items, I turn away. For example, when the sisters sneak back into the mortal world and go to the mall, they go into actual, brand name stores like Target or Sephora. They wear Converses and have iPhones. And to me, this is all unnecessary. I am an early modern scholar and one thing that fascinates me is that more than 400 years later, we’re still reading these books, plays, poems, etc. and unfortunately for Black, by adding the Apple Store as a place of interest, she instantly dates herself–The Cruel Prince will not outlast this generation. Is this even her goal? Probably not and that’s fine! But if any writer wants to be the next JK Rowling, they should probably not include brands that potentially won’t be around in the future.

Furthermore, books are my escape, as I know they are for many people, and by having the girls shopping at Target, Black pulls me out of the story, reminding me of the shopping I need to do at my Target, instead of keeping me sucked in. I am reminded that my mortal world is not glamorous. All of this, I believe, can be achieved without the use of brands. The brands don’t actually do anything except noting to the reader that “Look! These girls also shop at Sephora! Gosh, they’re just like me!” One could simply say that the girls went and bought makeup at a high-end store–then my mind can conjure the image of a Sephora, without having the black and white stripes, annoying and sometimes terrible sales-people, unruly and dirty testers, and screaming kids blaring in my head. I wonder when authors do this if they are hoping for a pay cut from such stores just for mentioning them.

Secondly, Black switches writing styles often. I have read a lot. A lot, a lot. I have read every genre under the sun and will continue to do so. I already have one degree in reading and will soon have one more. My point is that I understand writing styles–I’ve literally had to be trained in it to pass classes before. And there are tons of writers that break these stylistic rules (Thinking of James Joyce or Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne are studied because they do break all stylistic rules), but those authors are doing it for a reason and do it, dare I say, well. Black does not. I am thinking specifically of Chapter 6, which is roughly three pages of Jude (the protagonist) stating that she has begun the story (I assume of her life?) incorrectly and then promptly lists three things that she wants the reader to know and understand before continuing forward. A bold move for sure. Black has Jude break the fourth wall (which, she was already doing by using brands but I digress…) and this is an interesting turn of events. I can work with this, I don’t mind a good fourth wall break in a YA, in fact, it’s refreshing. But what Black doesn’t do is continue this method. Jude never once points out to the reader that she’s actually telling a story rather than living one that we’re looking over like some omniscient presence. She doesn’t break the wall again and this makes Chapter 6 all but useless. The point of mentioning Joyce and Sterne is that the entirety of Ulysses or Tristam Shandy is one style breaker after the next, not just one chapter.

Okay, enough with the bad stuff, some people really loved The Cruel Prince and I will now try to convey the things that I did enjoy. I did somewhat like the characters; I saw a lot of promise in Jude and in fact, I thought there would be more twists and turns to her story than there was. I thought that the harshness of Carden’s gang was a little over the top for soon-to-be adults–it sounded more like ridiculous fourteen-year-old stunts than that of seventeen, eighteen-year-olds, but Jude standing up against Valerian (if you’ve read, then you know what I’m referring to) was a good twist and left me wanting more of that. The ending itself, and while I try to not spoil anything, is great. The ease it took to guess what was going to happen throughout the book did not prepare me for the ending and I was pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, the actual description of the secondary characters and the setting is outstanding. It is very descriptive and different from the other faerie realm stories I’ve read in the sense that the descriptions were very Grimm’s Tales-esque, meaning the faeries weren’t just handsome and airy, some were goblins and trolls, with crooked noses and beat-up faces.

Overall? I haven’t decided if I’m going to be purchasing the sequel if that gives you any indication of where I’m at. Pretty much any faerie world book I read, I always compare to Sara J Maas’ A Court of Thornes and Roses series. Is this bad? Probably, but those books are some of my favorites and while Black does interesting things with the faeries that Maas doesn’t do, she really misses the mark on keeping me invested in a contemporary yet fantastical YA.

If you really enjoyed The Cruel Prince, let me know why in the comments down below! I’m more than happy to revisit the pieces I may have overlooked.

Dangerous Lies

The Hush, Hush saga is probably one of my favorite series to ever be in books. I specifically remember the scene in the first book, Hush, Hush, when Patch comes over to Nora’s house and he lifts her onto the kitchen counter, and it’s all dark in the kitchen, and Nora turns Patch’s blue baseball cap around so she can get closer to his face and THEY DON’T EVEN KISS. But the build-up of that scene is so incredible that I can literally remember it and get flustered all over again just thinking about it. This series is the only books I have read by Fitzpatrick, so I was excited to read a different story by her.

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Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 10th, 2015
Genres: YA, Thriller, Family, Friendship, Romance, Fear, Identity
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


So clearly, as you can see above, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book and I truly wish I liked it more. While reading, I went back and forth between rating it a 3 or a 4 out of 5 stars; some scenes were definitely worthy of a 4 or even 5, but then other pieces of the book fell short. So I came to the 3 out of 5 because it’s just…average. The book itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t outstanding either.

I’ll start with what I didn’t enjoy first, get the hard stuff out of the way. I found some similar issues between Dangerous Lies and my recent review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, the main one being they both produced random information about the character at random times as if they didn’t have anything else to write about. For example, in Dangerous Lies, I am over 100 pages into the novel and I am just now learning that Stella was a successful basketball player on her high school team and that, upon going into witness protection, she clearly had to drop her basketball scholarships to collegiate programs and now is fearing she might never play basketball again. The only time basketball comes up again in the book is once more. To me, this is unnecessary information, seemingly added after the fact during drafts number four or five. Let’s make Stella more personable–she should play basketball! But then never talk about it again! The scene is set up because Stella is going to play informal softball with friends, which is fine enough, and she is suddenly hit with a wave of soberness as she realizes she left basketball behind in her previous life. It is just all so random to me.

Dangerous Lies also relies heavily on classic YA tropes, to the point that they don’t really add anything to the story and they’re really not that well executed. Case and point: Stella and Chet. I wanted to like Chet so badly, but to me, he’s no Patch and he’s really just…meh. I don’t not like him, the kissing and intimate scenes between Stella and Chet are Fitzpatrick’s expertise and are reminiscent of Hush, Hush (has she ever considered writing erotica? Because I think she’d be great at it). But Chet is just so cookie-cutter YA. He’s got a troubled past, lacking in a family, trying to make up for past wrongs, possibly a “bad boy” and he never redeems himself past these tropes. Perhaps Patch is portrayed the same way, but what’s different in the Hush, Hush saga is that there is the underlying current of the supernatural, which allows for some tropes to slip through the cracks. Fantasy sets up the novel to be looked at in a different light–we can’t apply the same thoughts when reading something based in reality to something that isn’t. Our expectations are different. With Dangerous Lies, Chet is just a classic example of mystery turned love interest.

That slow, liquid heat swirled faster in my belly. I felt dizzy, unsteady. I could come back from it now, I thought. It wasn’t too late. I could step outside and clear my head (258).

Moving on to the brighter stuff, truly the character I think I like the most, which might surprise most of you, is Stella herself. I was set up to not like her, not just from Fitzgerald, but from the fact that when I figured out I wasn’t the biggest fan of the book, generally it’s because of the main character. However, Stella (or Estella) is an actual good example of a character changing throughout the process of the book. Perhaps I like her because I find myself connecting more with her issues: drugs, mother troubles, identity. She gets placed in an excruciatingly rural area similar to my displacement upon my move to rural PA, and had to find a way to adjust from a city life to a farmer’s girl. She found things she liked in that tiny town and became determined to move on from her previous life, but of course, that isn’t how the plot continues.

Stella is the only character I see achieve any growth. Chet and Carmina, while great characters, I pretty much had them pegged from the get-go. Stella, on the other hand, still had some surprises up her sleeves, especially in scenes with her mother.

I didn’t want her to have this power over me…And then I’d come to Thunder Basin. The tide had receded. This summer had been a secret treasure. A guilty, selfish, gratifying escape. I’d been a fool to think it would last (343).

Would I recommend Dangerous Lies? Sure. It’s a fun, easy read that will keep you engaged. It is certainly not the worst book I have ever read by a long shot, it just did not live up to the Hush, Hush standard I had placed on it, which is, of course, not fair of me, but hey, I’m only human! And I think about Patch perhaps too much…