No spoilers below I promise
Yes, I know I gushed plenty about Holly Black in my previous post , but this is my site and I can do what I want, and what I want now is to scream to the world on how much I enjoyed The Wicked King and everyone should start on The Folk of Air series now.
I have been going around squealing about the series since finishing and have been demanding that friends began reading the first book, The Cruel Prince, immediately so we can discuss fan theories and just talk about the overall awesomeness of the series. I foolishly ordered it off Book Depository because I saw that Kinokuniya hadn’t stocked it yet and in the website they stated that it wasn’t in stock and would take two weeks and was almost twice the cost of the Book Depository item. So I ordered it off Book Depository and found it in stock in Kino two days later and was kicking myself every day afterwards until I received my Book Depository order.
To make it more bearable, I started to read Holly Black’s older Modern Faerietale series. While you don’t need to have read everything she’s written to get started on The Folk of Air series, it’s a lovely easter egg for longtime fans to see her characters pop up; the some characters from Tithe are mentioned in her other book, The Darkest Part of the Forest , but it’s only in The Cruel Prince that all the characters actually interact and meet. Tortured angsty elf boy Roiben (from Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) pops up again a lot in The Wicked King.
It’s after reading her older writing that I really appreciate how ambitious The Folk of the Air series is. Black introduces a much larger cast of characters than in her previous books and you get to know them more intimately in this book. There are multiple intrigues and plot twists with enough setup and foreshadowing so that nothing feels like it’s completely out from the left field. Jude is the first protagonist we see who actually dishes out murder consciously and it shakes her up each time. I’ve been seeing how reviewers are complaining that a lot of her problems would be solved with better communication, but it makes sense that she doesn’t; much of the book sets up the reasons for her paranoia and she’s right to have trust issues.
I also really appreciate that romance isn’t the main focus of the book. Also, with the Modern Faerietale, we already knew that the love interests were head over heels with each other and as readers could only shout at them from the sidelines for being so stupid. In The Folk of Air, I still don’t know what to think of Cardan (male supernatural love interest) and his intentions. It helps that we never get a chapter in his point of view (which we did with Roibin in Tithe), which I think is fantastic as we constantly feel on edge knowing that Jude is not the most reliable narrator given her paranoia but don’t have any other point-of-view to corroborate with her reliability/unreliability.
Also that ridiculous mic drop of a cliffhanger is driving me nuts and 2020 couldn’t come quickly enough.
Beyond romance though, I think where Black really excels is in writing about dysfunctional families, and how difficult it is to not care or cut ourselves away from them, no matter how toxic they can be. We saw this a lot in The Curse Worker series, where the protagonist has a lying psychopathic brother who turns out to have been abusing him for years but they have to work together to save each other anyway. Jude is brought to Faerieland because her parents’ murderer takes her there, and basically brings her up like a daughter. It makes things complicated and my favourite scenes are the ones where the two of them interact; there is grudging respect and affection on both ends and Jude doesn’t know whether to count him as ally or not throughout.
If any of you get around to reading Holly Black please do let me know and we can talk! There’s a lot to unpack in this series and it was hard to write a spoiler-free post.