The Wicked King is the second book in the dark tale of Jude Duarte and her sisters, and their struggle as mortal in a faerie world. Jude has been such a favorite character for me since the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince. She’s a complete bad ass, strong and fearless and never whining or feeling sorry for herself no matter what ill treatments and injustice she suffers. After all that happened to her in The Cruel Prince, I wondered (and feared) what more evil Holly Black could possibly to do her this time around? Quite a lot it turned out…
The Wicked King picks up five months after the end of book one and the jaw-dropping revelation that Jude’s little brother Oak is the heir to Faerie, and we get to see how Cardan has developed as a ruler, after several months’ worth of practice. We also discover how Jude’s deception has affected their love/hate relationship thing they have going on, since she’s bound Cardan to her and made herself the power behind the throne. No ruler is ever safe in Elfhame, though. Jude can’t let her guard down for a minute, having to navigate Faerie politics and deal with enemies from without and within the kingdom. As if that wasn’t enough, Jude is constantly at odds with Cardan, who takes every measure to humiliate or defy her wishes. At the same time, there is a spark, an attraction neither of them can get away from.
A LOT happens in this book, much of which I simply cannot tell you without spoiling the whole plot. We get to see new parts of the faerie world that were only hinted at in the first book, like the Undersea. We are re-introduced to characters that I assumed were out of the story, in new unexpected ways. And there are upheaval of political alliances and feuds everywhere. The pace of the story is even faster than in the first book and the plot just draws you in completely. Holly Black makes an amazing job keeping her reader at suspense, and to always deliver the unexpected. The intrigue and power dynamics were so entrancing that I couldn’t put the book down until the very end. There were twists I never in a million years saw coming.
I have some mixed feelings about Jude and Cardan’s relationship though. It’s intriguing, for sure, but I don’t know if I want them to be a couple or not, which is a bit frustrating as a reader. I can’t see their relationship ever becoming a good one. There will always be this unhealthy undercurrent, a hint of violence and abuse, that you don’t want anyone ever get caught up in. Yet, some part of me want them to be together, to admit their feelings for each other. So, very mixed feelings for the book in that respect. Nevertheless, the book itself is so good and I truly recommend it and am now eagerly awaiting The Queen of Nothing. It’s simply impossible to not continue reading this series to see where Holly Black takes us and what more she will do to Jude until the end...
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