The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
I wasn’t planning on reading The Cruel Prince, but then Becky had to come in with her raving review and praise, and I knew I had to see what all the fuss was about. I bought a copy and immediately started reading, and it was pretty much love at first sight. The Cruel Prince was only my first book by Holly Black, and obviously something is wrong with me, because what an incredible book this was!
I loved how ruthless this book was. It’s even better because I don’t think I quite expected the book to go so far. It’s bloody, gruesome, and so so twisty! I honestly didn’t see a lot of those twists coming, which is something I love in books. I love being surprised when reading a book and The Cruel Prince did a good job at that. I also found the world building to be absolutely impressive. There’s a lot of underlying politics and hierarchy going on in this world of cunning fae, so you can imagine the corruption, the power imbalance and all the backstabbing that exists in this world. Holly Black did a fabulous job at introducing readers to the world. I was seriously in awe. The pacing of the plot sneaked up on me too – it had somewhat of a slow start at first, but then things start happening and it’s non-stop twists, and action and I was pretty much breathless trying to flip through the pages.
Of course, The Cruel Prince wouldn’t have been a great read for me had it not been for the characters. Jude and her twin sister are kidnapped as small children to the world of the fae after their mother’s fae lover kills her family in front of her. She was a complex and intriguing character, and I was fascinated by her personality all throughout. She was loyal to her loved ones, brave and didn’t mince her words. But there was also an underlying darkness and ruthlessness to her, which I’m hoping to see more of in the subsequent books of this series. I was also very much intrigued by Madoc, her family’s killer and Jude’s father figure in this book. He was an interesting character because he’s obviously violent and ruthless, but he also happens to have soft spots for his children, especially Jude, even though biologically she’s not his. Their dynamic was one of the highlights of the book for me, and I can’t wait for more. There was also another fae that caught my eye in The Cruel Prince, and that was Cardan. He was so cruel to Jude at the beginning of the story, and honestly, a terrible person, but there were layers and layers to his character – I’m not 100% on his side just yet, but I have a feeling Holly Black is going to change that with the sequel.
Anyways, The Cruel Prince is a must-read. It’s an entertaining book start to finish, and even though this is part of a series, I’m not complaining because now, I’m actually pumped for the next books. You have to meet Jude and this fascinating world she lives in.
Blood and Sand by C.V Wyck
*I received this book as ARC for review purposes. This does not affect my rating or review.*
YA historical fiction can be so underrated. I wish there were books out there. So, when I found out that Blood and Sand was set in Ancient Rome, I knew I had to pick it up. While I wouldn’t say that I was entirely enamored by the story, I found it to be an entertaining read, and I’m sure to pick up the subsequent books in the series.
I loved the idea of a female Spartacus, which was one of the primary reasons I was attracted to this book. Attia was a good character. I don’t think she was as fleshed out as she could have been, especially when it came to her emotions, but on the surface level, she was a character with a lot of potential. There’s a lot of bravery and fire to her personality, and I would loved to have connected with her on a deeper level. But even though I didn’t feel like she stood out all that much, I think as we get to know her more as the story progresses, she’ll turn out to be exactly the kind of character I want her to be. I liked the loyalty, kindness and strength that I saw in her, so I have hopes. She goes through A LOT in Blood and Sand, from witnessing the murder of her family, to being auctioned off as a slave, and through it all, she keeps her head high. I also really really liked Xanthus, a gladiator, who also happens to be a prized possession of the man who buys Attia. His story was heartbreaking and there were so many times I wanted to reach out to the guy and just give him a hug. Even though death and violence were part of his daily life, Xanthus was soft-hearted. The gentleness he exuded when it came to Attia, especially, made my heart ache in a really good way.
As you can probably guess, a romance develops between Attia and Xanthus, and fair warning, it happens fast. I do wish we had seen more of a slow-burn romance here between the two. That being said, I really did like Attia and Xanthus together, especially as they opened up more to each other. I’m hoping the romance will be better developed in the sequel. The plot started off a bit slow in the beginning, but picked up pace towards the end. There were lots of great action scenes, and the world building here was very interesting. For some reason though, I felt that the story was a bit disjointed, which led to me feeling disconnected to the story. I’m not quite sure exactly why. Perhaps it was my mood, or perhaps it was the writing. I’m also going to agree with other reviewers that this could have easily been a standalone novel with a couple of more chapters – I tend to prefer standalones as most of you already.
All in all, Blood and Sand wasn’t completely perfect for me, but the book still managed to keep me attached to the story and the characters until the end. So, I will most definitely be picking up the sequel. Definitely give this one a try if you want to read a historical set in Ancient Rome.