Jude and Taryn are seven when their parents are brutally murdered by a fae, a fae who happens to be their half-sister’s father. All three girls are whisked away to Faerie to be raised by the murderer.

Faerie exists beside and below mortal towns, in the shadows of mortal cities, and at their rotten, derelict, worm-eaten centers.

Jump forward ten years and you find out things haven’t been as bad as you’d imagine based on that opening. In the prologue, you get the feeling the story will focus on Viv who is the daughter of Madoc, but as it switches to the first person narrative you discover that mortal Jude is the narrator. Viv is the one who rebels the most against life in the High Court of Faerie, but Jude and Taryn are more accepting. After all, they barely knew the human world.

Things aren’t all peaches though, and Jude is being bullied by the popular, posh, kids. Their ringleader? Prince Cardan, fifth in line to the throne (not that it works like that there, but he’s pretty unlikely to be king compared to his siblings). A large portion of the book focuses on Jude’s bullying. Taryn things she should let it slide and do what they want to make life easier for them, but how far can you let them go?

Only in Faerieland is a giant toad the less conspicuous choice.

Jude’s adoptive father (and, don’t forget, parent killer) Madoc is in charge of the High King’s military and Jude would love nothing more than to be one of his knights. Taryn just wants her happy ever after and Viv wants to live with her mortal girlfriend in the human world. The current High King is abdicating and a coronation is on the horizon.

It’s only about two thirds the way in that things get interesting, until then it felt like quite a generic fae storyline, with added bullying. I mean, if you haven’t read many books about the cruel and brutal type of fae, you might feel a bit more engaged but it was a very slow start for me. Yet the last third? It was gripping and full of political manoeuvring. Lots I didn’t see coming! Honestly, I know a lot of the build-up was necessary to make everything work, I just didn’t love it until I knew that was happening.

Here’s why I don’t like these stories: They highlight that I am vulnerable. No matter how careful I am, eventually I’ll make another misstep. I am weak. I am fragile. I am mortal.

Although mortals are looked down upon in general I liked that they did have one prized skill, the ability to lie. Whilst the fae can be tricksy with their words, they can’t lie outright. They totally don’t get sarcasm!

Based on the ending I would definitely read the second book, even if this one didn’t tick all my boxes.

The Cruel Prince is published by Hot Key Books and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.