A Year and a Day

Author: Holly Black

A year and a day. It seems like such a long time, but it’s already half over and Jude has more problems than solutions. As the clever, violent mortal girl stolen into Faerie, she has clawed her way up, she has schemed and lied, she has betrayed, and now the King of Faerie, her old enemy Cardan, is at her beck and call. But only for a little while longer. And the true heir to the throne, the one Jude is fighting for, is still a child, still not ready. How can Jude convince Cardan to stay under her rule, and how can she fight a kingdom of immortal fey, all with tricks and guises and cruelties at their behest?

The Wicked King is the bombshell follow-up to The Cruel Prince. Here we pick up where we left off, but Jude is less elated here, less sure of herself. She fought to steal the crown, to entangle her enemy into a debt he cannot escape, to put her own little brother eventually on the throne. But now, with time dwindling, she wonders if it is at all possible. She also has far more enemies to face, many of them closer to home than she would like. With time running out and a war about to erupt in Faerie, Jude must trust Cardan and fight her contradictory feelings about him.

The Wicked King is a bit slower than its predecessor. We spend the first portion feeling Jude’s angst, watching and wondering and waiting; it’s less exciting, but ultimately essential for what follows. Characters who appeared before – from main characters to side characters – all come back as Jude struggles to protect the kingdom and fight back her own budding acknowledgement that she lusts after power.

Most importantly, the Jude and Cardan dynamic here is golden. Personally, I have never been a fan of enemies to lovers, but Black makes it work here, makes it organic, and makes it (let’s be honest) so HOT. Of course, nothing in faerie is simple, and a love-to-hate relationship in one of Black’s books certainly goes beyond what meets the eyes. Of course, its Faerie so nothing can be simple here and the inhuman Cardan may have grown himself, and not necessarily in ways that Jude will like. He might even be more of an equal now, and that could be good for the alliance but bad for an entire host of other, treacherous reasons.

Meanwhile, Jude’s twin sister is back in this story with an important role to play. At the end of Cruel Prince, we were left wondering, alongside Jude, what would happen with her family, with her back-stabbing twin and with Madoc, the murderous general who is also an odd father figure. Here, we get more insight into how those relationships have evolved, to the newfound pitfalls, the shifting alliances and residual familial feeling. And of course, there is more of Locke here, that inveterate bastard.

It all works together to create a series of events that are just as horrifying and heart stopping as they are intensely addicting and, at times, sob inducing. If you thought that there wasn’t enough murder or betrayal in the first book . . .  well . . . look no further. Oh, and let’s not forget more faerie magic, some of it far more terrifying than the usual pranks.

As with The Cruel Prince we have an unexpected ending, with Jude once again struggling to align herself to her new place and the events of Faerie. This ending is even more cataclysmic, honestly, and I am not entirely sure where things can go from here except far more dangerous and far, far worse. I can’t wait to pick up Queen of Nothing!

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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