The Wicked King by Holly Black

The basics

Title: The Wicked King


Series: The Folk of the Air #2

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

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Goodreads Summary:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

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

what happened in The Wicked King?

  • Five months after The Cruel Prince ended, Jude is now worrying that her time to control Cardan is almost at an end. She has commanded him to never hurt her, but he might be able to work his way around that.
  • There’s a court meeting, a smith called Grimsen seeks refuge in Cardan’s kingdom. Cardan asks him to swear an oath to him but Grimsen says he would rather show loyalty in other ways. Cardan agrees and Grimsen becomes part of the court. I don’t think this is a good idea, but whatever.
  • A witch called Mother Marrow attends court, and gifts Cardan a cloth that is impenetrable. Jude tells Cardan that he shouldn’t take it because she doesn’t trust gifts from faeries. Mother Marrow tells Cardan that if he had taken the cloth, he would have had to marry Marrow or her daughter. Cardan realises that a lot of people will be looking to marry him and become queen.
  • Locke asks to become Master of Revels, which Jude thinks is a role he made up. Cardan agrees.
  • Prince Balekin sends Cardan a letter asking him to see him in prison. Jude goes in Cardan’s place but Balekin won’t tell her anything. A prisoner grabs Jude and tells her that she knew Jude’s mother and her secrets.
  • Jude takes a prison guard called Vulciber back to the Court of Shadows because he’s loyal to Balekin. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t tell her way Balekin wants to talk to Cardan. Vulciber doesn’t know, but he does reveal that Queen Orlagh of the Undersea has been sending messages to Balekin.
  • Taryn asks Jude to attend her wedding and the sisters make up.
  • Roach and Ghost wake Jude up in the middle of the night. They take her to Cardan, who is drunk and upset. He says someone tried to kill him,and Jude reckons the would-be assassin escaped through a secret passage. They find the passage in Cardan’s wardrobe. Jude follows it and finds a crossbow. The passage leads to King Eldred’s room. Nicasia is there crying.
  • Nicasia admits to trying to assassinate Cardan but she says it’s because she went to seduce Cardan and found another woman in his bed. Nicasia was allegedly trying to kill the other woman. Jude asks Nicasia what her mother, Orlagh, is planning. Nicasia says Orlagh plans to marry Nicasia to Cardan, and if Cardan refuses then Orlagh will flood the kingdom.
  • Jude plans to stop all this from happening, obviously, because Oak needs to become king.
  • The Living Council holds a meeting. They summon Jude, and tell her they want to advise Cardan as they’re his council and he’s refusing to come to meetings. They point out that Cardan’s rule is affecting the kingdom, and storms are starting to come in faster, and his subjects get tipsy when he drinks. The Council doesn’t listen to Jude’s concerns about Orlagh.
  • Jude finds Taryn in her room. Taryn posed as Jude to obtain a key. Jude recalls Nicasia telling her that someone she loves has betrayed her, and Jude thinks that person could be Taryn.
  • Taryn asks Jude to speak to Cardan about Locke. Taryn doesn’t like that Locke is now Master of Revels, because he’ll be gone a lot and she’ll miss him. She’s also worried he’ll cause trouble. Jude knows that she can’t have Locke stripped of his title, Locke will know that Jude is controlling Cardan.
  • There’s a party. Dulcamara tells Jude that Lord Roiben could call in a favour at any time. Dulcamara suggests that she could become part of Jude’s personal guard.
  • Locke makes a big deal about Jude coming up to accept a crown for the Queen of Mirth. Jude goes along with it.
  • Some of Orlagh’s people arrive and tell Cardan about the offer to marry Nicasia. Cardan wants to discuss this with the Council.
  • Jude finds a note from Madoc asking her to meet him. Madoc tries to make Jude betray Cardan because Orlagh is more powerful. He asks Jude not to let an alliance between Orlagh and Cardan happen.
  • Cardan asks for Nicasia to be brought to the Council meeting. Cardan says he will not marry Nicasia, and threatens to imprison her if Orlagh threatens him again.
  • Jude asks if the old woman who grabbed Jude in the prison can give false information on Oak and therefore protect him from Orlagh. The old woman is Lady Asha, Cardan’s mother.
  • Jude asks Lady Asha about her mother, Eva. Asha says that a witch told Eva that her child ould become a great weapon.
  • Madoc suggests using Oak as bait during Taryn’s wedding. Again, not the best idea, in my opinion. Jude agrees because she lacks other ideas. The two plan to set up traps for Orlagh during the wedding.
  • Jude fake offers to help Asha escape into the human realm with Oak in exchange for information on Eva. Jude’s plan is for Asha to pass this fake information to Balekin, so that Orlagh will know that Oak will be at the wedding.
  • Jude asks Cardan to seduce Nicasia for information. Cardan gets angry with her and then they spend the night together.
  • Cardan gets information on Orlagh and her plan to attack during Taryn’s wedding.
  • Jude threatens Locke for his antics at the party. She says if he tries to undermine her again, she’ll kill him.
  • Jude goes to the human realm to fetch Vivi and Oak. Vivi reveals to her girlfriend, Heather, that she is fae. Heather is cool with it and wants to attend the wedding.
  • Jude asks Grimsen to make some jewellery for Taryn’s wedding gift. He enchants them to make the wearer more beautiful. Jude gives him one of her tears as payment.
  • Jude goes to meet with her siblings and Heather at Madoc’s house, but she is attacked on the way. She fights her attackers off, and arrives at the house. Vivi notices that Jude is injured and Jude asks her not to tell anyone in case their father was the one to send the attackers. Jude realises that she lost the earrings during the attack.
  • Jude commands Cardan not to be alone to protect him. Madoc hears this, and now knows that she is able to command the king.
  • Jude hears crying in the hedge maze and finds Heather, who has been turned into a Hermione Granger-esque cat-person. Heather points out who did it and Jude demands that the boy tells her why. He says he thought Heather would like it because she was admiring his ears earlier. The boy reverses the magic but Heather is still upset and wants to leave. Vivi erases Heather’s memory of the last half an hour.
  • Jude sees that Taryn is wearing the lost earrings. She also notices that Locke is limping, which means that he was one of the people who attacked her. Jude doesn’t have much time to react because Ghost arrives and tells Jude that Orlagh took Balekin from the prison tower.
  • Jude and Ghost go to the prison tower. Asha is still in her cell. Jude breaks her out and tells her to leave.
  • Ghost and Vulciber are working with Orlagh and they betray Jude. She gets hit over the head.
  • Jude wakes up underwater with Nicasia. Nicasia tortures Jude for a bit before Jude is taken to Orlagh.
  • Orlagh tries to glamour Jude and commands her to kill Cardan and bring Oak back to the underwater realm. Unfortunately for Orlagh, Jude still can’t be clamoured.
  • Orlagh and Nicasia reveal that Grimsen is working with them (is anyone surprised?) and they plan to have him make a new crown that won’t require one of Eldren’s heirs to be crowned.
  • Jude is put in a cage and starved. Jude still pretends to be glamoured.
  • A month or so later, they take Jude back to the surface. Jude is taken to Madoc’s house.
  • Dulcamera arrives and calls in a favour from Jude. Dulcamera reveals that Orlagh freed Jude in order to be allowed to attack the Court of Termites. Cardan agreed with this.
  • Jude tries to warn Cardan about what is going on, but the guards were ordered by Madoc to keep her out. Jude tries to use a secret passage, but it has been destroyed.
  • Jude goes to see Balekin at Hollow Hall. Because he thinks she’s still glamoured, he tells her there’s a masquerade ball happening the following day and she should be able to get in.
  • Jude climbs the mountain and gets inside the palace. She tells Cardan about everything she has learnt.
  • Roach and The Bomb show up, having followed Jude, and they tell Cardan that Jude is there to kill him. Jude tells them that the glamour doesn’t work on her, and she’s not going to kill Cardan at all.
  • Jude buys a dress from the local market. Mother Marrow is there, and offers to trade Jude’s earrings for a walnut with a dress inside it.
  • Balekin gives Jude poison for her to kill Cardan with.
  • The ball is being held in the Court of Termites’ honour, because Cardan wants to make peace with Lord Roiben and his people.
  • Jude bumps into Locke and the two of them argue again. Jude says she’ll make him pay for attacking her.
  • Lord Roiben tells Cardan that he wants Balekin dead.
  • Cardan kisses Jude in front of everyone. Jude tastes poison on his lips. Balekin tries to tell everyone that Jude poisoned the king, using the poison he gave to her as proof. Jude reveals that the glamour hasn’t been working. She tells the crowd that Cardan is just drunk.
  • Balekin sends a message saying that he has the antidote, which he’ll provide in exchange for the crown. Jude meets with him and takes the poison in order to test the antidote. Except the poison is actually just water, and Jude spits the antidote back out into the empty bottle for The Bomb to take to Cardan

how did The Wicked King end?

  • Jude kills Balekin in a duel.
  • Jude gets back to Cardan’s room and realises that Taryn has been there, impersonating her again. Cardan says that Taryn (as Jude) said that Madoc needed to be released from his vow to Cardan. Cardan reveals that he wanted to prove to Jude that he could be trusted to make good decisions when he’s not under her command.
  • Cardan asks to be released from his own vow to Jude, and in exchange he will marry her and make her queen. Jude agrees to do this.
  • Orlagh demands an audience with Jude and Cardan. They meet with her, and she threatens to go to war with them. Cardan creates an island in the middle of the sea to prove that he could eliminate the sea if Orlagh continues to threaten him.
  • Orlagh agrees to an allaince with Cardan, but says that she wants to take Jude with her because Jude killed Balekin. Cardan didn’t realise she was the one that killed Balekin.
  • Cardan banishes Jude from the Faerie Realm for killing Balekin. Jude tries to claim that she is now queen, but no one but Cardan knew about that.
  • Jude goes to live with Vivi and Oak in the human realm. Jude starts to plan how to get back into the Faerie Realm. She plans to find Grimsen and have him make a crown for Oak. Vivi suggests that Jude teams up with Madoc and Jude considers it.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in The Wicked King by Holly Black. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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  • #1fan says:

    This book was amazing and I absolutely loved it. It’s very interesting and dark and gloomy but also a nail-biter. It’s about love and magic and it’s just absolutely perfect.

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