The Wicked King: The book that made me want to get back into chess

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Publisher/Release Date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/January 8, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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In deference to the fact that this book doesn’t come out for a while, I am going to keep this brief to avoid any potential spoilers. A full review of this crazy wonderful book will be posted after it is released in January 2019. While there will be NO SPOILERS for The Wicked King, there WILL BE SPOILERS for The Cruel Prince. Consider yourself thusly warned.

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If The Cruel Prince was the flint and the tinder, then The Wicked King is the all-consuming fire. And damn was it a good burn.

The Wicked King starts off a few months after the superbly twisty ending of The Cruel Prince: Jude has made Carden the King of Faerie, but she has him under her command for a year and a day. Life has gone on from that delicious final moment of The Cruel Prince, with Carden ruling as a puppet king and Jude stretching herself thin to manage the faerie realm.

I think the best part of this book is the growth of Carden and Jude in their new roles. Jude, who I had trouble relating to (but still rooted for) in the first book, has really sunk into her role of spy master and basically the true ruler of Faerie. The lengths she goes to in order to keep the charade alive are bordering on the verge of insanity. But I felt I understood her motivations more in this book and it becomes quickly apparent that while she may be a human, she can still throw down with the cruelest of Fae. Carden has grown from a petulant and cruel prince to a capricious and wicked king (I’m sure you see what I did there). His role in this book…well, I’ll let you see that all for yourself when you get the book. It is too deliciously good to speak of it here.

But for all the joy I took in seeing these two crazy kids grow, this book reads slow for the first half. It’s like watching a chess game: it’s all a bunch of strategic moves, with a few nuggets of excitement when a pawn gets sacrificed (except in the book its witty banter instead of pawn sacrifice), but at the end of the day the end game is where it gets interesting.

And what an end game it was. I did call one of the plot twists but that didn’t detract from the intense enjoyment I had reading the last 100 pages or so of this book. Holly Black is the master of faerie deceit and the Wicked King only secures her title that much more. And that is all I shall say on the matter of the ending at this time.

The Wicked King truly is a king of a book. It grew into its crown far better than I could have imagined, which is often not the case with a sequel. I cannot wait to see what kind of trouble Jude and Carden get themselves into with the final book of the trilogy. 2020 isn’t that far away, right?

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