The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air)
“Like the faerie folk whose wicked doings it depicts, The Wicked King is truly spellbinding, with an ending that will leave its readers panting for the next installment.”
Holly Black is surely the high bard of modern faerie tales. As the second book of the Folk of the Air series begins, Black’s hardheaded heroine Jude Duarte has installed herself as seneschal to the new High King, cruel Cardan, and bound him to obey her for a year and a day. It’s not merely a power grab; Jude hopes to buy time for her younger brother, Oak, to mature before she can maneuver him onto the throne. But as a mortal living in the land of Faerie, Jude’s power is tenuous, challenged at every turn.
The court simmers with intrigue as the players scheme for power. Someone tries to assassinate the king. A prediction warns that someone close to Jude has betrayed her, but she doesn’t know who. The High King’s brother Balekin conspires with Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea, who’s threatening war with the Land. And to top it off, Jude has to deal with her own love-hate relationship with Cardan; she doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss or kill the infuriating king.
The action unfolds with all the sky-high emotional drama of high school and all the consequences of playing for keeps in the treacherous land of Faerie, where nothing is as it seems. At every turn, Black escalates the tension and raises the stakes. But the book isn’t merely a fast-paced series of plot twists (although twists do abound). The main players are fully fleshed-out and riven with both internal and external conflict. Even supporting characters are well rounded, developed, and full of contradictions.
The tale is rendered in Black’s signature style, with propulsive action and sharp dialogue. She’s a master at world-building, painting a vivid picture of the sheer weirdness of Faerie, as this detail from a scene at court reveals:
“A centaur-like musician with the body of a deer has come forward—one carrying a lyre carved in the shape of a pixie, her wings forming the top curve of the instrument. The musician begins to play, the carving to sing.”
When one of her core group finally betrays Jude, she’s kidnapped by the Queen of the Undersea and imprisoned underwater in a realm that’s as imaginatively creepy as the Faerie world above. But that’s not even the biggest betrayal of the story.
Like the faerie folk whose wicked doings it depicts, The Wicked King is truly spellbinding, with an ending that will leave its readers panting for the next installment.