Book Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

This review contains spoilers for The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, the two books in Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy.

Author: Holly Black
 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: November 19, 2019
Pages: 308
Type: Hardback

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Official Synopsis
He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her twin sister, Taryn, whose life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity . . .

My Review
Jude, now the Queen of Faerie, has been exiled to the human world and isn’t certain she’ll ever see Elfhame again. Jude distracts herself from Cardan’s betrayal by taking odd jobs from the fey living amongst humans. After one such job she comes home and unexpectedly encounters Taryn, whose life is in danger. To save her sister, Jude must return to Elfhame and avoid being caught. But war is looming and her plans go awry, forcing her to confront her feelings for Cardan and ensure the crown doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Still reeling from the end of The Wicked King, I felt very upset for Jude. However, as a reader, it’s interesting to get a look behind the glamor and see how some of the fey live in the human world. It’s not a huge part of the story, but it’s another tendril of creativity that helps to build out this trilogy’s world just a little further. But I semi-digress…

I was equally upset to find Taryn sitting in Jude’s apartment asking for help considering what she did to Jude in the last two books. I wasn’t as surprised that Jude agreed to help, though it would have been nice to see her push back a little bit more. In that same vein, I do feel that overall this series doesn’t have a lot of confrontation between siblings; they all seem so willing to forgive each other. Perhaps that sticks out to me because I unfortunately tend to harbor chips on my shoulder for a little while, but then again, why isn’t Jude more hesitant when it comes to Taryn’s requests?

Anyway, we follow Jude back into Elfhame where she must try to get a pardon for Taryn. Instead, after she arrives, she inadvertently finds herself whisked away to an unfamiliar area of Elfhame. There she must play a game of pretend in order to make her way back to the High Court to thwart a scheme to take the crown away from Cardan. Though I really enjoy reading about the happenings of court life, the stakes of Jude’s predicament made it hard to put the book down for fear she’d get caught. I also appreciate that the author extended our knowledge of Elfhame’s lands and citizens by plopping Jude down in an area wholly unknown to her.

And, you know that prophecy about Cardan that Black casually wrote about in the last book? That fully comes out to play. And perfect timing, too, what with war about to happen. I personally found the culmination of the prophecy to be a little underwhelming. I wasn’t as disappointed as I was with the ending of Ruin and Rising. But I feel like it all happened rather quickly given the three book build up to the end.

Though I enjoyed reading this book overall, I feel like the ending was just a little too perfect. There are certainly hardships, but maybe I’m a glutton for a couple more notches of despair. I also would have appreciated if Black explored Nicasia’s and Asha’s characters a little more, considering their complex relationships with Cardan and Jude.

Ultimately, this series, and particularly this last installment, is about finding confidence in yourself, working towards a personal (or common) goal, and learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable in order to build trust, friendship, and loyalty.

Rating: 4/5
Content warnings: non-graphic sex, battle scenes
Reading format: Paperback

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