Review: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black

Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 8th 2019
Source: book (hardcover)

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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.
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When it was revealed that Oak was the rightful king of Faerie, Jude did all in her power to keep him safe. Now that Oak is safely away in the human realm with Vivienne and she is in power through her puppet king, Cardan, she can make Faerie safer and better. However, it is difficult to navigate the everchanging currents of the Faerie court, especially when you are a human.
Not only is the court difficult to navigate but there are also the bridges Jude burned between her and her family. Now that she knows that someone close to her will betray her she must tread very carefully. She must strive to maintain her power to keep Oak safe.
In this book, we find not only a Jude in power but also a Jude that has tasted the sacrifices and work that great power demands from you. She is now the puppet master of the Faerie Court, ruling through Cardan, no one can touch her now. This false sense of security completely falls apart once she learns of the future betrayal she will suffer soon: she starts analyzing every conversation, every look, every breath of everyone that surrounds her, even those whom she trusts the most.
Cardan's character gets a whole new meaning in this book. In a way, you get to see him drop the diva act: there is some raw and true Cardan underneath all that carefully acted exterior he showcases to the world. Not only is Cardan's character improved but you also get to see a completely different side of Jude. Yes, she has always been power-hungry but this book showcases her development into a person who starts to only see the power in front of her, being blind to details she could and would catch before.  All the other characters in the book also get some ( effective) attention and development and my favourite thing to read about is still the relationships between characters and watching their motivations manifest into actions while trying to decode them.
This is truly a short book, but it proves that great and impactful stories do not need a big package. Every page is intense and emotion ridden, all of this also mixed with dark folklore and an extensive magical universe which both amazes and scares you at the same time. Like many, I will state that if you can take a message from this book it would be: do not trust men. I was definitely not ready, neither was my heart, for the latest developments in the court of Elfhame and cannot possibly imagine what awaits me in Queen of Nothing. Black did it again, she made faeries even more interesting by exploring the dark dimension that is usually approached in folk tales. These are truly the faeries that steal your children and haunt your nightmares.
Honestly, this is one of the best fantasy series I have ever read! I would recommend it to everyone who can appreciate the dark side of the faeries. Even if you do not regularly read faerie books, this is certainly one you might enjoy.

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