Spoilers if you haven’t read The Cruel Prince!
In the second instalment of the Folk of The Air series, we return to the Kingdom of Elfhame, now under the rule of King Cardan. That’s how it appears to both citizens and courtiers, but in reality, mortal Jude is the puppetmaster behind the throne. Her job isn’t easy – consistently trying to undermine her authority, Cardan’s enigmatic behaviour leaves the High Court, and Jude, guessing. It soon becomes apparent that someone close to her will betray her, so Jude must juggle keeping the Faerie world safe and asserting her power as a mortal in the volatile Court.
The first novel set the bar pretty high for the rest of the trilogy in terms of the plot twists, backstabbing between characters and mystical intrigue, and this novel certainly followed this precedent. Once again, there was a focus on the political maneuvering of the key players in Elfhame, and I was not disappointed.
One thing that has confused/frustrated me in both books is the absence of the citizens of Elfhame. The storyline focuses on the courtiers and monarchy of the isles, so you’d expect that most of the people that they would interact with would be people from their social class and family. However, when Jude’s out on her travels, she doesn’t seem to pass any villages, or interact with “ordinary” faeries. Even though she left the human world when she was seven, she would have understood that some people have much more than others, and that in most societies, there is too much variation between the wealth of the 1% and the rest of the population. So why do none of the discussions that she has concern the welfare/rights of ‘the people’? do they not exist? Maybe I’m looking into this too deep, but the stakes sometimes didn’t feel that high because the only people that would be affected by any decisions made by the characters in the novel would be people with wealth and influence.
I really appreciated the fact that we stayed with Jude’s point of view for this book, as opposed to switching to another character. Some fantasy series go for alternating points of view in later books, which I’m not really a fan of, so hearing from Jude for this second book really appealed to me as a reader.
If you’re looking for a book where everyone supports one another through the highs and the lows, the characters have a policy of honesty and there’s a nice atmosphere when a group of characters convene, then this is not the book. This observation is not a reflection on the book’s quality at all, but there are few moments of respite from endless backstabbing and an absence of genuine friendliness between the characters, which wasn’t a problem for me, but I do enjoy seeing women supporting other women and characters having one another’s back.
Overall, this is a strong second novel in a trilogy full of treachery, decadence and mythical creatures, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for an enthralling YA fantasy novel to get stuck into.