When I read CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black, I enjoyed it but wasn’t on the level of hype as everyone else until around the last third of the book. And then I read WICKED KING. I’m officially fully invested. Which is not to say that the first book isn’t good, I just really, really like all the court intrigue, conniving, and back-stabbing that takes place at the end of book one, which, to my immense delight, is the primary focus of book two.
Black’s world of faerie is dark and lavish and full of intricate details. The court machinations are such a joy to be surprised by. As someone who typically guesses plot twists before they happen, I’m always pleased when I’m surprised.
This is also a GREAT enemies-to-lovers trope. Jude is a mortal girl brought to live in faerie after a faerie kills her parents. In order to survive, Jude learns to play the game of court from a young age. The youngest prince of faerie, Cardan, torments Jude constantly to hide his feelings for her. (This is a little yikes, but bear with me.) Jude is awful. She is cunning and ruthless and will do anything to gain power for herself in a world that wants to give her none. Cardan is also awful. He is the youngest prince, will likely never rule, and he is spoiled and indulgent and the one thing he wants (Jude) he can’t have. The reason this works so well where other enemies-to-lovers fail is that neither of them is suddenly ‘forgiven’ for all their awfulness. They’re both still conniving, and they’re still enemies. Which makes for some very charged moments. And Black draws it out, makes you wait and long for them to just-kiss-already, and it’s so, so worth it.
Pick this up if you like: faeries, lush worlds, enemies-to-lovers, court intrigue, morally gray characters, and complex sibling dynamics.