The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The basics

Title: The Cruel Prince


Series: The Folk of the Air #1

- The Cruel Prince (2018)
- The Wicked King (2019)
- The Queen of Nothing (2020)

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Goodreads Summary:

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Here’s our recap of what happened in The Cruel Prince. Read on for a full plot summary to refresh your memory!

In short

Jude and her sisters were taken to the Fae realm as children. Her adoptive father, Madoc, is working with Prince Balekin to help him become king. He and Balekin kill the true heir, Dain, who Jude was spying for. Jude realises that Oak, Madoc’s son, is actually in line for the throne and would be a good king. She plans to have Cardan rule until Oak is old enough to do so, although Cardan doesn’t know about this plan. Eventually it all comes together, and Cardan is crowned king. Oak goes to the human realm with Vivi and her girlfriend until he’s ready to be king.

What happened in The Cruel Prince?

  • Madoc, a Faerie, murders the twins’ parents and takes Jude, Taryn, and Vivi to the Fae realm.
  • There’s a ten year time jump.
  • Jude and Taryn will be allowed to stay in the Fae realm as long as they either marry a Faerie, or they show some sort of skill. Jude plans to fight in the Summer Tournament, but Madoc tells her she can’t.
  • King Eldred plans on choosing an heir.
  • Cardan almost drowns Jude to stop her from competing. He makes Taryn kiss him to save Jude.
  • Vivi wants to move back to the mortal world to live with her girlfriend.
  • Cardan makes Taryn cry, but Taryn won’t tell Jude what happened. Taryn asks Jude not to fight in the Tournament.
  • Jude fights Cardan and he wounds her. Locke helps tend to her wounds.
  • Jude agrees to spy for Prince Dain in exchange for him protecting her from enchantments. All except his, anyway.
  • In class, Cardan kicks off and causes trouble. Jude gets into a fight, and Valerian puts an apple in her month, which fills her with joy. The other students bully her. Cardan makes Jude kiss his foot.
  • Locke picks Jude up and takes her home.
  • Madoc is angry, but Jude refuses to tell him who hurt her.
  • Prince Dain makes Jude spy on his older brother, Balekin. Jude does this, and finds a letter that she thinks Dain should see. It’s a message from Locke’s mother. She also sees Cardan being whipped.
  • Jude also takes a book from the house.
  • Dain tells Jude she is to train with the other spies.
  • Locke and Jude see each other again.
  • Taryn tells Jude that she’s getting engaged, but she won’t say who her future fiancé is.
  • A note falls out of the book that Jude stole. It’s just got her name on it (over and over) in Cardan’s handwriting.
  • Jude tries to condition herself to become immune to Fae poison. She gets sick from fruit.
  • Jude hears Locke and Nicasia talking about Cardan and how he’ll be angry if he finds out about Locke and Jude’s relationship.
  • Valerian tries to kill Jude and Jude stabs him.
  • Jude goes to a party with Locke.
  • Jude finds an acorn with a message from Locke’s mother inside, asking her friend to take care of her child.
  • Jude rescues a servant girl from Balekin’s house. She asks Vivi to sneak Sophie into the human world. Sophie doesn’t want to go and jumps off a cliff.
  • Dain makes Jude stab herself in the hand for stabbing Valerian.
  • Oriana, Jude’s stepmother, warns Jude about the court.
  • Jude kills Valerian for sneaking into her room and threatening her. She hides his body behind the stables.
  • Ghost makes Jude kill one of Madoc’s spies, who is holding a note that says to kill the bearer of the message.
  • Madoc gives Jude her father’s sword.
  • The coronation ball finally happens. Jude sees Sophie, who seems to have turned into a mermaid. Jude dances with both Locke and Cardan.
  • Dain is coronated but then killed by Balekin and his crew (including Madoc) immediately. Oh dear. There’s a fight and only Balekin and Cardan are left out of the princes.
  • Jude and Cardan run and hide. Jude takes him to the Court of Shadows.
  • Jude returns home as Ghost gives her a 24 hour window. She finds out that Taryn is engaged to Locke. She challenges Taryn to a duel, which Madoc breaks up.
  • Madoc asks Jude where Cardan is. He offers to trade Cardan for anything Jude wants.
  • Jude finds an acorn in Oriana’s room that is identical to the one she found before.
  • Jude comes to the realisation that Oak is Dain’s and Liriope’s son. Liriope slept with Dain while she was a consort to Eldred. Madoc and Oriana adopted Oak, and now Madoc wants Oak to become king.
  • Jude goes back to the Court of Shadows and talks to Cardan about everything that’s been going on. She wants to know why he hates her, and he says it’s because she’s loved. Cardan and Jude kiss.
  • Jude plans to have Oak live in the human world for a bit so he grow sup sympathetic and kind. He’ll then return to take the throne when he’s older.
  • Cardan agrees to swear himself to Jude for a year.
  • Jude goes around looking for support for her plan and for Oak. A couple of courts agree to support her.
  • Vivi agrees to take Oak to the human realm until he’s old enough to return.
  • Jude and Cardan attend Balekin’s banquet. They pretend they’re there for Cardan to crown Balekin.

How did The Cruel Prince end?

  • Jude tells Madoc what she knows. Madoc refuses to allow Oak to become king, so Jude challenges him to a duel. Madoc quickly becomes weak, and it turns out Jude poisoned him earlier on. He falls asleep and Jude returns to dinner.
  • There’s an explosion and chaos erupts. Roach fires arrows at Cardan, and Balekin protects him.
  • Ghost accidentally throws the crown to Taryn instead of Jude. Taryn is confused about who to give it to. Jude gets the crown and asks Cardan to crown Oak. In a shocking twist, Jude gives Oak the crown to put on Cardan’s head. Cardan becomes king. He’s angry, but he has to do it because he swore himself to Jude.
  • Jude and Vivi go to the human realm with Oak. Jude is about to leave the two of them because she needs to go home. Jude tells Oak it’ll be time to go home when he’s not missing it any more.
  • Jude returns to the Fae realm and goes to find Cardan. He threatens her, saying he’ll make her pay for her betrayal in a year.

That’s everything that happened in The Cruel Prince so your memory should be refreshed for The Wicked King! For more recaps, check out our recap list. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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  • paityn says:

    Tysm for this summary!!

  • Lily says:

    A jem of a book, I can’t wait for Wicked King. Only thing is I swear Cardan and Jude were a thing at the end of the book, or so my friend tells me.

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