Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

At seven years old, Jude Duarte’s parents are murdered. She abruptly finds herself carried off with her two sisters to live in Elfhame with her parents’ murderer. After ten years, Jude no longer has a desire to return to the human world. Despite the fact that it’s a dangerous place to live for humans, she realizes she wants to rise and find her place in the High Court of Faerie. But Jude’s proud and headstrong personality attracts the attention of Prince Cardan, the youngest and most cruel son of the High King, and his friends. They’re used to getting their way and make life hell for those who don’t conform to their demands. To win a place at Court, Jude must plot, scheme, and decide who to trust as she navigates through young love, betrayal, and threats against her life.

This book has been on my radar for a while, ever since I picked up the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACoTaR) series, and it didn’t disappoint. I feel like the blurb on the back of the book doesn’t do the plot justice. This is an urban fantasy in which Jude and her sisters, Vivienne and Taryn, are whisked away from their home in Maine and brought to live in the land of the fey. They spend the next ten years living with their parents’ murderer, Madoc, whom they learn to call father.

Naturally, this evokes a lot of complicated emotions in Jude, her twin Taryn, and Vivi, which we see manifested in how they try (or not) to acclimate to their new home. Vivi wants nothing more than to return to the human world and isn’t shy about letting Madoc know it. Taryn wishes to stay in Elfhame and so works to please everyone in order to find her place. Jude also wishes to stay, but refuses to acquiesce to the notion that humans have no business at the High Court, which she quickly finds makes her life more difficult.

This book also has a lot more court intrigue and political scheming than I expected. Whispers of the High King wishing to pass on his crown to one of his heirs tests other courts’ ties of loyalty and breeds plots abound to ascend to the throne. There were definitely a couple of moments in the book that surprised me. One particular character’s life choice and betrayal definitely frustrated me. I suspected this person’s betrayal for a while, and hoped it wouldn’t come to pass; but it still upset me for Jude when the truth came to light.

Though The Cruel Prince is the first book in a trilogy, I think Black did a great job with the world-building. Rather than describing every little aspect of Elfhame, we learn about it through Jude’s interactions with others and her surroundings. I feel like this kept the pace moving without bogging the reader down with long descriptions of the different beings or settings in Elfhame.

I also enjoyed Black’s writing style. It’s to the point, but not dry. I recall encountering a few words that I don’t think I’d ever seen before. Kudos to introducing me to new vocabulary! If you read my reviews on the ACoTaR series, then you know the author’s writing style frustrated me at times (even though she’s great at portraying complicated emotions). So I also feel I should mention when the writing style is enjoyable, if that’s an aspect you as a reader like to know.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy reading about a strong female protagonist, scheming, and stories set in a world with elves. Though romance is not a central component of the plot, what does manifest is slow-burning, which I personally prefer.

Reading format: Paperback
Content Warnings: murder, blood, violence
Rating: 4.25/5

Product Details
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 2, 2018
Pages: 384
Type: Hardback

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Book Review: Persist by Elizabeth Warren

Reading format: Hardback

Content warnings: sexism, racism, pandemic, 2020 elections

Rating: 4.5/5

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Persist by Elizabeth Warren is not a memoir about what went wrong or what she could have done differently during the 2020 presidential election season. Instead, Warren writes from six perspectives that influence her decisions, views, and advocacy. She writes as a mother, teacher, planner, fighter, learner, and woman. Through these different viewpoints Warren outlines what plans she feels our nation should implement to improve the lives of the American people.

Honestly, picking up a book written by yet another politician was the last thing I thought I’d reach for this year. But I was in my local bookstore and it just beckoned to me. It was a true impulse buy and I thought to myself, “I hope I don’t regret this purchase.” It sat in view for a few days and I just felt this pull towards it which I usually only feel for a fantasy books.

As soon as I opened it I knew I made the right choice. Warren’s energy reverberates throughout the entire book. She writes exactly how she talks, with conviction and positivity. Every time I sat down to read it I heard her voice in my head.

Admittedly, I didn’t read the book cover blurb before I bought it, so I thought I was going to read a memoir. But it was a pleasant surprise to read about her well thought out ideas (compared to many other politicians) to invoke change and to inspire action. I don’t know that it would have made a difference, but I wish she had published this book while she was on the campaign trail.

She writes about a variety of topics (childcare, health insurance, racism, climate change, women in the workforce, education), but her explanation of the wealth tax sticks out to me the most. I had no idea how much educational opportunity could be generated through the implementation of a wealth tax. For those unfamiliar with this idea, Warren’s health tax would apply for every dollar after the first $50 million: there would be a two cent tax for every dollar about $50 million and three cents for every dollar about $1 billion.

This tax would generated $275 billion per year. To put that into perspective, that’s enough money to give a $1 million grant to every public school in the country to improve their students’ education whether it be through a new science lab, better opportunities for special education, increased teacher pay, etc. My jaw dropped when I read that.

My jaw dropped more than once while reading Persist, actually, but don’t take my word for it! Check out this book yourself. I know, I grumbled about another political nonfiction book, too. But I’m really glad I gave this one a chance. I’m not sure how quickly change will happen, but I really appreciate Warren’s enthusiasm; it even made me a little less cynical, but I can tell just how much she believes in what she does. I’ve already recommended this to several friends. So give it a chance!

Product Details
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Publish Date: May 4, 2021
Pages: 320
Type: Hardback

First Lines Fridays: September 17, 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  The rules are as follows:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Without further ado….

“Give me your hat.”

They are not the sort of words that you expect to start a legend, but they were the first words he ever heard her say.

She said them to him, of course.

Do you know what book this is?

Still guessing?

Well, the book reveal is….


Two nations at war. One prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war. The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.Now, the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favor. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory but the war.

I’ve seen this book pop up frequently on Twitter, so I thought it finally time I dive in. And what great timing since the final book is supposed to be released on September 28, 2021? I know I won’t be able to finish both books in time for the release date, but I’ll at least have one book under my belt. Have you read this series?

ARC Review: A Light in the Sky by Shina Reynolds

Reading format: e-ARC

Content warnings: death, mention of torture

Rating: 2.5/5

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from Wink Road Press via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

Aluma Banks dreams of riding her very own winged steed. But that privilege is reserved for the king’s Empyrean Cavalry, who guard Eirelannia from the troublesome land of Laithlann. So Aluma resigns herself to a life on the ground and a future that doesn’t interest her. Moreover, she’s about to lose her close friend Thayer, who plans to compete in the Autumn Tournament for a chance to join the Cavalry.

Just when Aluma thinks she’s hit an emotional low, her father is tragically injured in the tournament. Suddenly thrust into the competition for a spot in the Cavalry, she now has a chance to pursue her dreams. But along the way she begins to realize that not everything is as it seems and Eirelannia’s king may be keeping a secret from his people.

The description and cover of this book intrigued me as, at the time, I hadn’t yet read a fantasy book involving winged horses. Similar to many stories, A Light in the Sky shares themes of coming of age, learning about and pushing oneself, and loyalty. A couple of characters reminded me a little bit of Peeta from The Hunger Games and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.

Shina Reynolds’s writing is clear, if not a little plain. There’s nothing wrong with that, though I prefer writing that evokes a little more emotion. I will always give kudos to authors whose grammar and punctuation are on point since I find continuous errors of this nature to be distracting. I was very happy to see that there were no errors of this kind worth mentioning.

It’s also evident in the descriptions of the horses’ movements that the author has equestrian experience. I looked the author up afterwards and found she used to ride horses when she was a child. One of the more vivid scenes in this book, to me, is when the horses compete in the tournament. Reynolds does a great job describing the course and how each horse navigates it.

However, the characters in this story are a bit two-dimensional. Their dialogue is elementary and stilting considering they’re all in their late teens. I also felt their dialogue was rather formal. I wasn’t sure if this was due to the author’s writing style, or because most of the characters had to become fast friends. And though there’s the beloved (or hated) love triangle trope, I found Aluma’s inner dialogue about it so awkward. It felt slightly misplaced with everything else going on in the story; I found myself wishing it hadn’t been included at all. Reynolds also recycled descriptors of physical appearances of the two boys in the love triangle, which I personally found annoying.

I also had a difficult time with how naïve Aluma is. Her character takes everything at face value. Despite someone close to Aluma betraying her, she allows herself to fall for it again. And, perhaps the most important critique in my mind, the plot is fairly predictable. Almost everything seems to go Aluma’s way even though she’s basically a newborn to how the world works outside of her family home.

The most interesting part of the story for me concerns two different types of powerful objects that are important to Eirelannia and Laithlinn. Keeping this spoiler-free, I found this concept intriguing. Though several characters use these objects in the book, I felt like I didn’t really understand the full concept of them. I’m happy to chalk that up to the fact that this book will be part of a series. But I also felt like we could have learned more about them from several characters if Aluma had chosen to push certain people for information.

Overall, if you’re looking for a complex storyline or well-developed characters, I would look elsewhere. If you’re up for a light, fast-paced read, then dive right in. This book ended up not being for me. But I’m sure there’s someone out there who will since we all enjoy different things.

Product Details
Publisher: Wink Road Press
Publish Date: November 9, 2021
Pages: 420
Type: Hardback

First Lines Fridays: September 10, 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  The rules are as follows:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Without further ado….

Dancing across the frigid afternoon sky the aurora borealis lit up the winter solstice of 1936. On this, the shortest day of the year, daylight lasted a scant four hours in the village of Weksal, Norway, and as its last light faded the aurora glimmered its dying witchery in the icicles hanging above the front window of the Konrad Knudsen household.

Do you know what book this is?

Still guessing?

Well, the book reveal is….

From Amazon:

Earth is on the verge of becoming a dead planet.

The polar ice caps melted long ago, and it’s been decades since the last raindrop fell. Ocean levels rise a dozen meters, and forest fires rage on a global scale. Eleven billion people dying of thirst wage water wars against each other as extinction looms.

Humanity needs a new planet. As Earth deteriorates, the nation states desperately work together to build a mechanism for recolonization. And so the Magellan II is born, the first starship capable of interstellar travel.

The future of the human race is tasked to ten thousand colonists-now homeless but for the vastness of space and the decks of Magellan II. A distant planet offers hope of survival, but it’s a strange, watery world inhabited by giant reptiles.

Humanity is starting over, but survival isn’t guaranteed.

I spotted this on Blackthorn Book Tours, where the cover of this book drew me in. Throw in global warming and the apocalypse and call me intrigued. I’m currently reading this and you can expect my review on October 14 as part of the tour, so stay tuned!