REVIEW : TikTok’s #BookTok Lied and gave me trust issues

Courtesy photo from Little Brown Books

Courtesy photo from Little Brown Books

Among the many books gaining popularity through TikTok and the #BookTok community, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is one that has been recently praised for being a great young adult and enemies-to-lovers fantasy trilogy. 

The book begins with 17-year-old Jude Duarte, a mortal girl being brought into a magical land against her will with her twin sister Taryn and older half-sister Vivienne. The land is ruled by the Fae folk – immortal beings with enhanced beauty and senses that hold magical powers – who have little respect for mortals. 

The twins are relentlessly mocked for being mortal, especially by a group of classmates. This is where we meet Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest prince, and our enemy-to-lover protagonist.

Cardan’s group of bullies get away with anything they do because they are the prince’s friends and their parents hold important titles. 

The group is much like your basic high school bullies — except they don’t mind if they kill the girls or seriously harm them. Their characters had very little depth throughout the book and little to the story aside from roughing the girls up. 

My expectations were high for this book, as TikTok readers had compared it to writings such as A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas — a book I thought was very well written and did the enemies-to-lovers twist very well. However, this one did not. 

Cardan himself barely cares what happens to Jude — not when they throw her in a lake, not when she eats an apple that will kill her, he barely shows any care throughout the book — even after they’re in some sort of situation-ship and he confesses his “feelings”. 

Jude herself doesn’t seem to care for Cardan much either, she seems to simply think of him as another challenge. One that she could win to prove herself just as worthy as the fae.

When the two were finally together, there was either lust-like love, where they were cute and head over heels, or they were actual enemies.  There was no in-between that you see with many plots like these.

I feel as though the book wanted to center around the story of Jude and Cardan as individuals, but had to make them tie together somehow, so they threw in a relationship and called it good. I wish the characters could have matured more on their own and then together and actually worked for something, instead of going back and forth on stabbing each other in the back. 

I do like the ideas behind the characters. Jude was a warrior with anxiety who had panic attacks, as someone who struggles with anxiety it was neat to see someone overcome it. 

Cardan was a character who showed darkness and cruelty, but at times vulnerability, and I am always here for a wicked good guy. 

The writing itself just didn’t seem to do the book or its ideas justice. It feels as though Black was writing for a younger group of readers than those who typically read YA, or at least the younger end of YA. 

In conclusion, the book lacks depth and character development. I didn’t feel as though the characters grew mentally, just revealed more about themselves as the book progressed. I think with a couple hundred more pages, this book could have been excellent. As it is, it wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t worth the hype.