A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth #bookreview #urbanfantasy #YA

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

One of the biggest reasons I requested this book from NetGalley was the diverse cast of queer characters. And I wasn’t disappointed – the representation is outstanding.

I haven’t read many books involving the fae, so I always appreciate when the author doesn’t assume readers know all the ‘rules’. I can’t say I’ve ever read a fantasy novel set in Canada (Toronto), so it was a very welcome change. With this being urban fantasy, the teen fae come across as genuine, mentioning pop culture, hanging out at coffee houses, texting each other, and generally getting into trouble with their parents. I have to commend the author for getting me to see and understand so much about these characters in just a few sentences. Other authors I’ve come across have written paragraphs of description, and I’d still feel like I didn’t know the characters even close to this level.

At the beginning of the story, most of the main characters are in different locations, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them (Arlo, Nausicaa, Vehan, and Aurelian) and their personalities through their different POVs before they joined together later in the story. All the POVs are very distinct and when I set the book down and came back to it later, I immediately knew who was speaking. The author also gives a POV of the villain – it was interesting being in his head and getting glimpses of what was going on with the murders of iron-born teens.

Snarky characters capture my heart every time, so Nausicaa was an immediate favorite for me. She’s dark and dangerous, but there’s a good heart inside – buried waaayyy down deep, but it’s there. Celadon, who gave me plenty of laughs, is also at the top of my list, and I would have loved more of him.

External conflict abounds – murders, a brewing war, secrets about Arlo and her magic – but a good bit of internal conflict with each character also contributes to a richly layered plot. It’s not really a secret who the villains are in this novel, but there’s a reveal at the end that isn’t that shocking. This person is rotten to the core, and I hope very bad and painful things happen to them in the next book. Just sayin’.

The popular comp titles are very appropriate, so fans of both The Cruel Prince and City of Bones should enjoy this series. I’d highly recommend it to fantasy fans looking for more diverse reads.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

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. 

I’ve seen this book on more ‘Best Of 2018’ lists than I can count.  Holly Black is a talented and widely read author, but I’ve never gotten around to any of her books, despite having The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelf for over a year.  With strong reviews, several friend recommendations, and a discounted Amazon day, how could I not read The Cruel Prince?

Admittedly, I haven’t read many books involving the Fae, so much of this world was new to me.  And the world-building is magnificent – dark, intriguing, and politically charged.  The political maneuvering, alliances, and manipulation really captured my attention – some of these characters would fit in well with House of Cards.

And that’s another thing I liked:  none of these characters are entirely ‘good’.  Many of them desire power and position, while others enjoy bullying, threats, and playing with the lives of others.  And I’m okay with that – I love to see shades of gray in characters.  In fact, it’s the primary reason I kept reading.  Twists are aplenty in this book – some of them I saw coming, others I didn’t until right before they happened.

People may throw rocks and garbage at me for saying this, but the first half of the book didn’t win me over.  Not a lot happens, but right around the 50% mark, the pace becomes turbo charged and never lets up.

Overall, I enjoyed The Cruel Prince, and I plan to continue the series with The Wicked King, but when that will be, I have no idea.  I need a month long vacation just to read!