After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
Fair warning, this is not going to be a nice review. If you really truly love this series, please don’t read this and I’m sorry in advance for what I am going to say.
Also spoilers, obviously.
This book…was a disaster. And yet somehow…The Queen of Nothing was worse. But we’ll get there.
If you remember from my review for The Cruel Prince, I didn’t exactly come out loving it. I thought there were plenty things wrong with it, starting with it just not being what I anticipated. I was disappointed, but remained optimistic that it would get better and I would enjoy the rest of the series more.
I did nOT.
This series is my first experience with Holly Black’s writing, and for a veteran YA author, I expected better from her. There are many sentences that start off really well, and then just peter off into an extremely lame metaphor. At certain times, it feels like the writing of a moody teenager who is first experiencing using writing to get their emotions out. Don’t get me completely wrong, some parts are good, but then sometimes I have to read “she is a mirror, reflecting someone I could have been, but am not” with my own eyes. (The concept of this quote is great! Surely there could have been a better execution of it?) This feels like something I could have read in 2010, and yet here we are in 2019, pretending this is good fiction. To prove I’m not completely out to get the author, I did really enjoy this quote:
“You’re unwinding yourself like a spool. What happens when there’s no more thread?”
“Then I spin more,” I say.
This moment was one of the very few times that I could actually relate to other readers when they say that Jude is a strong and well-built female character, because the rest of the time, she’s just a moody teenager.
The entire plotline of a 16-year-old girl just running an entire kingdom BY HERSELF behind the scenes is ridiculous. 16-year-olds do not know shit. This feels like watching The Little Mermaid as an adult all over again. There’s one point when the author writes that “the Council is skeptical of Cardan’s youth and confused by my rise to power” and honestly?? Me too! Jude is terribly written, says one thing and then does another thing, and cannot make up her mind about a n y t h i n g. She loves Taryn, she hates Taryn. She wants to live in Faerie, she doesn’t belong in Faerie. Madoc is her true father, Madoc is a kidnapper who murdered her parents. Make up your mind, girl. Now, I’m not saying that a person cannot have mixed feelings about things. I expect her to. Emotions are complicated and she’s a human (as we are reminded on EVERY SINGLE PAGE). However, it’s more than that. Instead of having these conflicting feelings, and showcasing those conflicting feelings, I cannot keep track of how she feels. It is different on every page, and it is exhausting being inside her head. Yet, she’s supposedly the mastermind behind it all. Does she love Cardan or not? Is he her enemy or not? Does she want to keep him on the throne, or not? Which is it, Jude??? Choose something! I thought she was decent in The Cruel Prince, but that changed real fast.
Jude and Cardan’s relationship gives me whiplash, and it’s very exhausting. I feel like we went from being mortal enemies to making out just like that. There was never a moment where I believed that we had shifted on that beloved enemies-to-lovers scale, we were just all of a sudden there. And just when I was so confident they were officially lovers, they get married (which is bizarre on its own), Jude becomes Queen…and then Cardan banishes her???? I also feel like the title of this book is a misnomer. I kept waiting for Cardan to be wicked. It didn’t seem like that high of an ask, to be honest – he certainly lived up to being the cruel prince. And yet I was eternally anticipating something to happen, just to be utterly underwhelmed. Is it all a lead-up to when he banishes her to the human world? Because that’s a pretty poor send-off if it is.
Taryn’s relationship with Jude is also something I have whiplash from, although more so in the next book than this one. I just don’t understand how they can be in the same room as one another. How Jude can possibly want to interact with Taryn whatsoever. They are like oil and water. They want completely different things, have different values, and differ in literally every other fundamental way. How Jude could possibly want her around, I will never understand, even if they are twins. Taryn is an insufferable human being, and I want to drop her down a well. I would not have been opposed to her death at any point in this whole series. Her only personality trait is that she’s In Love™ and cannot live without her one and only. He makes her feel special, don’t you know. The same one and only who A) pretended to date her sister WITH TARYN’S CONSENT, and B) literally attacks Jude in the forest with his buddies the night before his wedding. I don’t know. Maybe they deserve each other. I really cannot decide who I despise more.
To wrap this all up nice and succinctly (because obviously this rant was incredibly well-written and thought-out), I don’t think I ever truly ever appreciated the term “dumpster fire” until I read this book. There are so many things I didn’t even mention, like the month that Jude spent in the Undersea, or the Ghost being a traitor, or the truly terrible idea of Vivi bringing her human girlfriend into Faerieland with no warning for the poor girl whatsoever. I am exhausted by how much I disliked this book. I want to rant more about how bad it was, but I have no energy. I cannot anymore. Why did I read it, then, you ask? That is a very good question, and one I am still wondering myself. And the mermaids couldn’t even make it better. What kind of book can’t be made better by mermaids??? The whole book just feels like weird self-insert faerie fanfiction and I cannot believe there’s a whole other book about it. I will never get back this time in my life.
Once upon a time, a wish was granted and I received an advanced copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (It’s honest all right.)