The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

Are you a fan of Game of Thrones but sometimes wish there was a little less incest, rape, and violence?  Well, have I got a trilogy for you. Except for the violence part. Hard to get away from the violence if you’re looking for something similar to GoT.

The Folk of the Air: The Cruel Prince; The Wicked King; The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black.

That’s right folks, for you too can have all the political backstabbing, royal court intrigue, conniving, plotting and violent uprisings that you could possibly want – with a series that is complete.  No worrying that the author won’t finish the series before he dies trying to take back Casterly Rock.

Holly Black in our new Queen!

This series is, in all seriousness, one of my favorites EVER.  I own the original series AND the B&N Special Edition series (because I *NEEDED* the bonus chapters in the back {don’t judge me}). 

I ordered the Fairy Loot Special Edition box for The Queen of Nothing (they are great for bookish presents – I should know, I got a 3 month subscription just to be sure I’d be first in line for The Queen of Nothing box (don’t judge me;).  

Fairy Loot’s Special Queen of Nothing box

I loved it so much that not only did The Queen of Nothing tie for my absolute favorite book of 2019, but I went back and read every other book that Holly Black wrote.  Then I bought them all.

I own three copies of The Queen of Nothing. That tells you how seriously in love with this book I am!

So I’m going to admit something.  I’ve never read Game of Thrones. I hadn’t watched the series until about 6 weeks before the final season began – binge watching it through my spring break to be caught up for the last season (made it just enough to not have been spoiled at all – yay).

But when I describe The Folk of the Air to my students, I always compare it to GoT.  Believe it or not, no matter their age, they always know what I mean.

The Cruel Prince (book 1) sets the scene for us, introducing us to the Elfhame, the world of faerie that exists within our human world. 

In the very first chapter, we are introduced to our heroine, Jude, as she watches as her parents are viciously murdered in cold blood, in front of her seven year old eyes.  The murderer – Jude’s mom’s former husband and father to Jude’s sister, Vivi – “adopts” (can you call it adoption if you’re the one who murdered the parents?) Jude and her twin sister Taryn, and takes all three girls back to Elfhame to be raised in his household.  

And this is just Chapter 1.

The rest of The Cruel Prince follows (a now grown up at seventeen) Jude as she navigates the treacherous waters of the Court of Elfhame.  She desperately wants to be a knight for the King but also wants to avoid the attentions of Cardan, the King’s youngest and most vile son, and his gang of bloodthirsty miscreants who torment Jude and Taryn on a daily basis – mostly due to being human and their continued presence in Elfhame.

I don’t want to say too much.  The book takes so many twists and turns (including a Red Wedding-esque scene) and heats up dramatically in the closing chapters making it essential that you have The Wicked King (book 2) at the ready!

PAUSING HERE TO PUT OUT MY STANDARD SPOILER WARNING. IN ORDER TO DISCUSS THE WICKED KING, I WILL REVEAL PLOT POINTS OF THE CRUEL PRINCE. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Can you believe that ending? I am usually pretty good and solving mysteries and I presumed that Oak’s royal lineage would play a part but a double-cross like that? Man, I did not see that coming. Well played, Holly Black.

The Wicked King picks up a few months after the end of The Cruel Prince.  Jude is struggling to settle into her role as seneschal to the new High King Cardan.  Only, she’s not just the seneschal, she’s the true power behind the throne. Cardan must do what she says.  For all intents and purposes, Jude is the ruler of Elfhame. Almost everyone is dissatisfied with the current political climate including (but not limited to):

Cardan – who is still angry at Jude for her switch-a-roo at the end of The Cruel Prince and is causing so. much. trouble. 

Madoc – Jude’s “adoptive” father, the general who orchestrated the brutal power struggle that lead to the current situation who was secretly/not-so-secretly hoping to take the throne through Oak.

Balekin – Cardan’s oldest (and only living) brother who was convinced the crown would be his, only to have lost it to his younger, spoiled, more selfish brother.   

I don’t know about you, but I usually have problems with second books.  Most of the time, the second book in a trilogy has a lot of exposition and plot devices to move the characters along.  Like, it is a vehicle just to push the plot line forward without any real intrigue.  

This book.  Well, this book wasn’t that.

This book, too, has so many twists and turns that I did not see coming.  I mean there is plotting, murder, vendetta, sibling rivalry, and forbidden romance <swoon>.  This book is THE perfect second book.

And that ending.  I felt the same way reading the ending of this book as when I read the end of Catching Fire.  “There is no District 12.” 

<cue screaming> 

<throwing book across the room> 

<running across the room to pick up precious book> 

<dusting book off> 

<telling book what a good book she is and that I’ll never do it again> 

<put precious book down>

<finding pillow> 

<screaming into pillow>

The ending of this book. Man. What a gut-wrencher. 

And.. I COULD NOT IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT! AND I HAD TO WAIT 6 MONTHS FOR BOOK 3! GAH! Well played again, Holly Black.

WE’RE HEADING INTO MORE SPOILER TERRITORY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. TURN BACK IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE QUEEN OF NOTHING.

Jude is our Queen.  No really. In the closing pages of The Wicked King, Cardan marries and then exiles our dear Jude to the mortal world, never to return unless “the crown wills it.”

Just as Jude is settling into her new life in the mortal world, Taryn comes home needing Jude’s help.  She’s murdered Locke (Finally! Seriously – he was so annoying and just *needed* to be offed. It’s amazing that he lasted this long. Unlike Varian.) and must stand trial. Only, she know that the faeries will use magic on her in order to get the truth and there is only one human who can withstand magic – Jude.

Despite Taryn’s rather egregious betrayal at the end of The Wicked King (seriously Taryn, what were you thinking), Jude agrees to help.  She is itching to get back to her old life – even for a little bit – to see exactly what has happened in her absence, start her reign (or a least be acknowledged) as the new Queen, and see how her new husband has been faring without her (even though, she doesn’t love him and couldn’t care less, right?) 

What could go wrong?  

Just when you think that (our Queen) Holly Black can’t think up any more twists and turns, you are proven wrong.  

There is a song during the Passover Seder (the meal that Jews eat during Passover – there’s like a whole book we read before we get to eat {not a good choice – coming between Jews and food} where we tell the story of how the Jewish slaves of Egypt were freed from their bondage {you know, Let My People Go}) that I feel is relevant at this juncture.  Stick with me, OK?

The song is Dayenu and the word “dayenu” means “It would have been enough.” This phrase is repeated throughout the song as we sing about all the things that we were grateful for (back then) and to indicate that we are still grateful (today) for all of these things.

How even one of those things would have been enough but we were blessed with so much more!

I’ve sort of thought about this book in terms of Dayenu.  Any one of these amazing parts would have been enough, but Queen Holly Black just knew to keep them coming.  See my rendition of the “Folk of the Air Dayenu” below:

How Cardan knew it was Jude and not Taryn. Dayenu

How Cardan couldn’t believe that Jude didn’t figure out the loophole sooner. Dayenu

How Jude had to pretend to be Taryn to their parents. Dayenu

That Jude cared enough to get the Ghost out. Dayenu

That Jude fell from the ceiling. Dayenu

That Cardan took care of her while she recovered. Dayenu

That Cardan actually admitted his feelings. Dayenu

That Cardan destroyed the crown. Dayenu

That Cardan turned into a snake. Dayenu

That Jude felt that she couldn’t rule alone. Dayenu

That Jude realized her feelings for Cardan. Dayenu

That Jude killed Cardan the snake. Dayenu

That Jude doled out punishment to her “father.” Dayenu

That Madoc’s punishment was to live out his life in the mortal world. Dayenu

For all of these things, we are appreciative, Queen Holly Black!

I loved every single minute of this book.  This is definitely one of those books that I wish I could read again, for the first time. 

You should definitely read this series. If only to be able to follow Incorrect Cruel Prince on Twitter. It is *hysterical* and I love it!

2 thoughts on “The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

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