Review: The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

Note: this post was written prior to the publication of The Queen
of Nothing, and reviews only previously released content.

Diving into this series felt like the most natural thing in the world – Young Adult fiction has its fair share of faerie novels. That being said, one of my favourite parts of it was that it feels like an acknowledgement of how most of us know much of this mythology already. For the unprepared, it may be a system shock if you haven’t previously heard of brughs, changelings or selkies.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”

Holly Black, The Cruel Prince

What worked for me

The political side: expecting a love story with some beating around the bush, I was extremely surprised to find that major portions are dedicated to power – both the obtaining and maintaining of it. The books speak to its heady nature, so it’s no surprise that a major recurring theme is betrayal, and exploring characters would go to in order to rule. As someone who loves a good political drama, this was undeniably riveting.

The relationships: though side plots for the longest while, the two major relationships were incredibly interesting. With the elitist behaviour of faeries, it should be expected that power dynamics are common in relationships with mortals: this manifests in love that feels, to its core, both toxic and understandably hard to end. The series truly depicts couples who are fundamentally flawed, yet so addictive. One in particular is sure to have you alternately screaming at the page and jumping for joy.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

Holly Black, The Wicked King

And… what didn’t

The pacing: though this issue wasn’t prominent in the Wicked King, the Cruel Prince read like two wildly different books, to the extent that a division within the book is labelled ‘Book Two’. Not only is the plot line much less gripping until this point, this first part takes up the vast majority of the book. The beginning feels unnecessarily drawn out, leading to a conclusion that you could blink and miss. Some of the key moments in the book come from explanations of previously unanswered questions; in her rush to end the book, the author seems to have foregone setting up a mystery, and instead given the seemingly

Underdeveloped characters: I want to take this moment to remind any budding YA authors out there that ‘feisty’ is not a nuanced character for a female character, nor is ‘snarky’ for a male. While the fleshed-out backstories give us some insight into character’s personalities, this series lacks the dialogue (think Six of Crows) and thought processes (à la Heroes of Olympus) that allow us to fully understand them. I’d go as far as to say you can predict that this will be an issue when you notice that the characters spend much of their time alone, rushed from one action scene to the next, with almost no time to play off each other.

Final review: 4/5 stars