Faerie two-fer: Wrapping up the Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

I raced my way through this awesome trilogy during the past week and a half, and loved every moment!

I wrote a review for the first book, The Cruel Prince (here)… but by the time I finished book #2, The Wicked King, there was no way I was going to pause for anything but work and sleep until I finished #3 as well.

So, now that I’ve come up for air, I thought I’d share my take on these two terrific books.

Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 336 pages
Published: January 8, 2019
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

The story gets much more complicated in The Wicked King. Jude is no longer the outsider, a powerless mortal girl growing up in Faerie. Here, she now wields great power as the royal seneschal, governing Elfhame through Cardan, who seems to resent and hate her for the situation she’s placed him in.

I enjoyed the book so much, although I’ll admit to feeling a bit frustrated early on by what seemed like a shift away from the more delightful, personal elements of the story in favor of court scheming and politics.

Still, the deeper I went, the more wrapped up I found myself, and I loved the ways that the story and the characters grew and changed throughout. There are some pretty horrifying interludes, and it’s impossible not to recognize how far Jude has come and what inner resolve she brings to every situation… even if she is a bit blind when it comes to understanding her own emotions.

The 2nd book in a trilogy can often feel like a bridge rather than a compelling book on its own. Luckily, that’s not the case here. The Wicked King was a truly engaging, magical read.

Title: The Queen of Nothing
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 300 pages
Published: November 29, 2019
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy. 

Wow! What a way to end with a bang!

The Queen of Nothing is intricately plotted and — even more impressive — lets each character fully demonstrate their own growth and evolution.

There are surprises galore, plenty of dramatic action and heroics, and enough swoony romantic moments to melt the coldest of hearts.

And talk about suspense! There were several moments where I had to remind myself to take deep breaths and calm down. I mean, there was no way things wouldn’t work out in the end… right?

I’m officially in love with the world of The Folk of the Air. I can’t believe it took me this long to getting around to this trilogy! I’m now eager to gobble up ALL of Holly Black’s books, as soon as humanly possible. (Or, you know, after I make a dent in my obscenely huge pile of books already waiting to be read.)

Seriously, I loved this trilogy, need to own copies of all three books once I reluctantly hand them back to the library… and will probably listen to the audiobooks sooner rather than later too.

If you enjoy faerie worlds with well-built magical systems and eerily beautiful and dangerous people and rules that still remain full of human emotion and relationships, absolutely check out these books!

Shelf Control #203: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Published: 2013
Length: 419 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

How and when I got it:

I picked up a copy at a library sale a few years back.

Why I want to read it:

I’m on a Holly Black kick! I just finished the amazing Folk of the Air trilogy, and I want more! And while this isn’t a faerie book, it still sounds pretty awesome to me. I understand it’s a vampire story… which is okay by me. And I like the fact that this is a stand-alone, because I have more than enough ongoing series that I’m trying to keep up with.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black

Title: The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air, #1)
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 2, 2018
Length: 370 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

The Cruel Prince is a book that practically everyone but me had already read. But now…

I’m in! I finally read The Cruel Prince, and I can see what all the fuss is about. Call me late to the party, but guys! This book is good!

The book starts off with a horrifying, sad scene: In a normal suburban home, 7-year-old twin sisters Taryn and Jude and their older sister Vivi are lounging about watching TV, when a strange man enters, murders their parents, and steals them away. The man is Madoc, and he is Vivi’s biological father. The mother of the three girls used to dwell in Faerie with him, but she ran off years earlier with the mortal man who became the twins’ father. Now, years later, Madoc has taken what he considers his.

The girls are brought to Faerie and raised among the fae gentry. Vivi, half-fae herself, fits in pretty well, but the twins are always aware of how other they are. They’re mortal, and have no powers. Even worse, they have no innate ability to fight off the magical compulsions and other torments directed at them by their fae classmates.

As the story kicks in, Jude and Taryn are seventeen, still trying to find a way to belong. Madoc has raised them with riches and privilege, but they can never forget that he murdered their parents. Jude wants strength — she wants to prove she belongs in the fae court by becoming a knight. Taryn, on the other hand, wants to secure her place through marriage. And Vivi? She, the one who should belong, wants no part of it at all, instead preferring to sneak back to the human world whenever she can to see her mortal girlfriend and plan a future with her.

Jude and Taryn are constantly tormented by their classmates, especially Prince Cardan and his cronies. But when the king decides to step down and pass along the crown, the intrigue and the danger escalates.

I’m not going to go further into the plot, but let me just say… I was hooked! I could not put this book down once I started. I loved the depiction of Faerie, its beauty and wonders, and how utterly alien and hostile this world would feel to children who didn’t belong.

The casual cruelty of the ruling class is scary and heartless, and I felt awful for Taryn and Jude for having no defenses and no way to stand up for themselves in any meaningful way. And even when some of the crowd appear to be more inclined to be friendly, it seems obvious that no one can be trusted.

Jude is our hero, and she’s awesome. She’s smart and brave, and refuses to scrape and bow, even when that’s the most obvious way to get the bullies off her back. She’s devoted to protecting her family, and doesn’t take the easy way out. I like how she goes through the book having to figure who to trust, and even when forced into pretty bad situations, how to turn those situations to her advantage and achieve her goals.

I definitely want more! I’m really looking forward to reading book #2, and feel pretty safe in predicting that I’ll want to read straight through to the end of the trilogy!

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I also really enjoyed The Lost Sisters, a novella that tells about some of the same events from The Cruel Prince, but from Taryn’s perspective.

It’s really interesting to get the other side of parts of the story, and I’m glad I stumbled across it!

And now, on to The Wicked King!Save

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Reading goals: Series to read in 2020

I always see a new year as a clean slate for my bookish dreams.

I tend not to set specific reading goals, other than keeping up with the books I buy and the never-ending ARCs waiting to be read.

But where I do like to plan ahead at the start of a year is with my series reading. A new year represents a chance to tackle a series that I’ve been wanting to get to. For me, series are most enjoyable when I can read all (or at least, a bunch) of the books in a row, or at least within a few months of each other.

Bearing in mind that none of this is written in stone, since my reading plans change with my changing moods…

In 2020, my priority series to read will be:

The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal – a completed five-book series:

The Interdependency Series by John Scalzi – the 3rd book in the trilogy will be released in April, so this might be a good time to get started!

The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: I’ve read books 1 – 3 already, and need to get back into the story! Watching season 4 of the TV series is helping a lot with my motivation! Next up for me is:

And who knows, maybe I’ll keep going. There are 8 full novels in the series so far, all over 500 pages, so I have my work cut out for me.

Poldark by Winston Graham – 12 books in all, and I’ve read 7. My understanding is that book #8 jumps ahead quite a bit and takes place after the events of the complete TV series, so I’ve been less eager to move forward with this one. Still, I really should see how it all works out!

Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black – I just bought myself a copy of The Cruel Prince, and assuming I like it (and why wouldn’t I?), I’ll want to read all three books!

 

That’s it for my 2020 priority list… but wait, there’s more!

I still have my eye on a bunch of series/trilogies/what-have-you that I intend to read… eventually. Maybe 2020 will finally be the year… and maybe not. My will-get-to-at-some-point list of series includes:

  • Kitty Norville urban fantasy series by Carrie Vaughn
  • Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant (because even though the subject is totally icky, I think these are her only books that I haven’t read yet, which is unacceptable!)
  • Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters
  • Wayward Pines books by Blake Crouch
  • Inheritance trilogy and/or Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin

Are you planning to start any new series this year? If you’ve read any of the series on my “priority” list, let me know what you thought!

Book Review: Doll Bones

Book Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones

Doll Bones is a middle-grade book about friendship and growing up, about imagination and adventures — and it’s also a ghost story involving a pretty creepy doll, a mystery, and a quest.

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends since they were little, but now, at age 12, they’re beginning to realize that childhood doesn’t last forever and that no matter what they want, their lives are all changing. The three friends live in the same neighborhood, go to school together, and for years now have been playing “the game” — a sweet flight of imagination involving their assorted action figures and dolls, in which they take on different characters in an ongoing story of pirates, adventures on the high seas, secret quests and a mysterious queen who rules over all.

But Zach is all too aware that his playtime isn’t so cool anymore, now that he’s in middle school and a star of the basketball team. They’re all growing up, physically and emotionally, and change is in the air. How long can they hold onto their childhood pleasures? At what point do they give into the pressure to put aside their toys and focus on sports, flirting, and other more “age-appropriate” pursuits?

Two events act as catalysts to the main action in Doll Bones: Zach’s father, newly reunited with the family after a three-year separation, grows frustrated with his son’s childish games and tries to force him into manhood by throwing away his action figures. At the same time, Poppy swears that the off-limits old doll in her mother’s china cabinet — dubbed the Great Queen by the three kids —  has come to her in a dream, demanding that the children deliver her to her proper resting place or risk being haunted forever.

All three children have doubts and fears to overcome. Zach knows that the time for such things is coming to an end. And yet, Alice and Poppy are his best friends. To keep his friends, should he indulge them one more time and agree to the crazy quest Poppy proposes? Alice, who lives with a strict and over-protective grandmother, has a lot on the line as well, but can’t quite walk away. And is Poppy telling the truth about the haunting? Or is this a last-ditch desperate attempt to keep her friends with her in their world of imagination, rather than allowing them all to move forward into their more grown-up lives as almost-teens?

At heart, Doll Bones is a sweet but sad exploration of the end of childhood. There are choices involved — whether to hang onto the fantasy worlds of their game for as long as possible, or to face the inevitable and say good-bye to make-believe. Zach is fully aware that Poppy’s quest is a defining moment for him, and ultimately, by choosing to go, he’s asserting to himself and to his friends that he wants to be someone who still believes:

But Zach wanted [ghosts] to be real, wanted that desperately.

If they were real, then maybe the world was big enough to have magic in it. And if there was magic– even bad magic, and Zach knew it was more likely that there was bad magic than any good kind — then  maybe not everyone had to have a story like his father’s , a story like the kind all the adults he knew told, one about giving up and growing bitter. He might have been embarrassed to wish for magic back home, but there in the woods, it seemed possible. He looked over at the cruel, glassy eyes of the doll, so close that she could have touched his face.

Anything was better than no magic at all.

The trio’s quest — to bring the doll to the grave of the girl she’s connected to and give her a proper burial — involves a road trip, camping, piracy, and breaking and entering. Along the way, they learn truths about themselves and each other, confront their fears, and start to figure out what they will leave behind and what they will keep as they move forward from childhood to adolescence.

Doll Bones works on multiple levels. Children may read it as a straight-forward adventure story, with secret missions, dangers and risks, and a ghostly mystery to unravel. I think adults will more likely be moved by the book’s exploration of the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the questions it poses: Does the end of childhood mean the end of dreaming and imagination? Do we have to give up magic and wonder in order to grow up?

The writing in Doll Bones is lovely and accessible. There’s just enough of eerie winds, strange sensations on the back of one’s neck, and seeing things that may not be there to give a reader a few chills and goose bumps along the way. It’s not terribly scary, but the middle grade target audience may find themselves a bit spooked by certain scenes and images. The reading level seems appropriate for middle school and above, although it might be a bit much for kids on the younger end of the middle-grade-reader spectrum. As for adults… well, I read it and thought it was wonderful. It’s a terrific book to read and and discuss with a kid, but there’s no reason not to read it for your own pleasure too. For an adult, there’s a certain sweet nostalgia for the days when one could indulge freely in imagination and make-believe, for the time before reality becomes more important than play.

In Doll Bones, Holly Black has created memorable, complex characters, a spooky ghost story, and a beautiful ode to childhood and the imagination. It’s sweet, it’s sad, and it’s delicious. Don’t miss it!