3 Sentence Summary
“The Cruel Prince,” the first novel in Holly Black‘s “The Folk of the Air” series, was published in 2018. The book follows 17-year-old mortal Jude Duarte, who becomes entangled in dangerous political schemes within the immortal Faerie realm as she attempts to secure a place in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. The novel is a coming-of-age story that delves into themes of truth, power, and identity.
Summary Read Time: Less than 3 minutes
Actual Book Length: 370
First Published in: 2018
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
Part 1 – Family Tragedy and Kidnapping
Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, live a normal life until their mother’s past catches up to her. A man named Madoc, claiming to be a faerie and the father of their older sister Vivi, shows up at their door.
Their mother, who had fled from Faerie with the girls’ human father, has a tense exchange with Madoc before he murders her and her husband. He then kidnaps all three sisters, taking them back to Faerie with him.
Jude and Taryn are looked down upon by the faeries for being mortal. Jude dreams of becoming a knight to gain the protection she feels she lacks, and Taryn just wants to fit in.
Madoc takes a second wife, Oriana, with whom he has a son, Oak. The twins attend lessons with the faerie King’s court, where they are tormented by the arrogant prince Cardan and his friends.
As Jude grows up in Faerie, she is taught combat and military strategy by Madoc. She and Taryn are repeatedly bullied by their schoolmates, and Jude finds some solace in the attention given to her by one of Cardan’s friends, Locke.
The story picks up again when Jude is 17 and wants to prove herself by becoming a knight, but she faces obstacles from her family and the faeries.
Part 2 – Juggling Roles and Romantic Entanglements
Jude enters a tournament to earn her candidacy for knighthood but earns the wrath of Cardan and his friends. After the tournament, Dain, one of the King’s sons and the chosen heir, is impressed with Jude’s performance and asks her to become a spy for him. Despite Madoc’s disapproval, Jude agrees, believing it will give her the protection she seeks.
She quickly realizes that juggling her various roles is more challenging than she anticipated. Jude is a student, spy, and trainee under Madoc, and tensions mount as a new monarch is crowned. Jude also discovers that her twin Taryn plans to marry a faerie she despises.
Hurt and feeling betrayed, Jude distances herself from Taryn and starts a secret romantic relationship with Locke. Jude tries to free an enchanted mortal girl from Faerie but she ends up drowning herself. Meanwhile, Cardan continues to bully Jude relentlessly. Moreover, Jude discovers that Locke’s mother was poisoned for her forbidden romance with the current King.
Jude’s frustrations culminate in her killing two beings and discovering that Madoc and Balekin, Dain’s brother, are working together. As Balekin murders his whole family, including Dain, Jude captures Cardan to thwart his crowning. With no blood relative to crown him, Balekin cannot yet claim the throne.
Part 3 – New Revelations and Shifting Alliances
Jude discovers that Taryn’s intended is actually Locke and feels betrayed by both of them. She fights Taryn in a sword duel but is stopped by Vivi and Madoc. The next day, Jude discovers a mechanized golden acorn. The acorn gives her a message revealing that Oak is the child of Dain and Liriope. Therefore, Oak is a member of the royal line.
In exchange for his freedom, Cardan swears an oath that puts him under Jude’s power for a year and a day. During a banquet for Madoc and other allies, Balekin unknowingly tries to persuade Cardan to crown Oak. However, under Jude’s guidance, Oak ends up crowning Cardan instead, in the hopes that Cardan’s kingship will protect Oak’s claim to the throne.
This unexpected twist leads to a surprising end to the story. The book concludes with Oak living in the mortal world, while Jude resides in Cardan’s palace. Although mortal, Jude stays in Faerie to help Oak ascend the throne. With this short-lived power over Cardan, Jude aims to pave the way for Oak’s future success as the new ruler.