Review: Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

“Mock me all you like. Whatever I imagined then, now it is I who would beg and grovel for a kind word from your lips.” His eyes are black with desire. “By you, I am forever undone.”

The whirlwind that is ‘The Folk of the Air’ trilogy has come to a close. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if it would make it to my Favorites shelf but it definitely did! As a warning, I’ll be talking about points from the first 2 books so there may be some spoiler type stuff. So decide now if you want to continue reading. ๐Ÿ™‚

From Goodreads:

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardanโ€™s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflictโ€™s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanityโ€ฆ

This book picks up pretty much right where ‘The Wicked King’ left off. Jude is now living in the mortal world with her sister, Viv, and brother, Oak. Not knowing what to do with herself, she picks up odd jobs from other Faerie residents that have moved (or were banished like her) to the mortal world. Who better to understand their specific needs than a mortal that grew up in Elfhame, right? In between these, she does her best to prepare Oak for his eventual ascension to the throne. None of this is really enough to distract her from worrying about Cardan and the fate of her Faerie friends.

Right before her exile, Jude felt as if her and Cardan were on the same page. But her sudden banishment left her reeling. She wars with herself over what game he’s playing while trying to convince herself that his feelings were nothing but a trick. She knows her father is planning an attack but since she’s effectively been sidelined, she can’t do anything to prevent it. This all leaves her feeling really frustrated and angry. So when Taryn asks Jude to pretend to be her in an upcoming trial, Jude hastily agrees. If it gives her an opportunity to get revenge on Cardan, all the better.

โ€œI am the Queen of Elfhame. Even though I am the queen in exile, I am still the queen. And that means Madoc isnโ€™t just trying to take Cardanโ€™s throne. Heโ€™s trying to take mine.โ€

Obviously, it would be a super short story if all went according to plan though. Jude is quickly discovered by Cardan and right as they’re getting ready to hash out the banishment proclamation he meted out, her father sends a raiding party to save Taryn (not knowing it’s Jude). Swept behind enemy lines, Jude does her best to not get caught, gather valuable information, and make her way back to Elfhame.

“Jude, you can’t really think I don’t know it’s you. I knew you from the moment you walked into the brugh.”

As much action as what occurred in this book (and there was a lot!), it was the coming together of character development that I really enjoyed. We get to see just how clever and resourceful Cardan can be when given the opportunity. A lot of what we were presented in the 2 other books was just a shadow of the truth. He is so much more complex than I was ready to acknowledge after ‘The Cruel Prince’. Not quite an innocent victim but an easy target for blame after the prophecy. His refusal to contradict the horrible stories about him were, in part, his way of shielding himself too. Seeing his protective and softer side had me deep in the feels. Still a snarky ass though.

“It’s you I love,” he says. “I spent much of my life guarding my heart. I guarded it so well that I could behave as though I didn’t have one at all. Even now, it is a shabby, worm-eaten, and scabrous thing. But it is yours.” He walks to the door to the royal chambers, as though to end the conversation. “You probably guessed as much,” he says. “But just in case you didn’t.”

He opens the door to prevent me from responding.

Jude, despite her best efforts, has fallen heavily for Cardan. But can she allow herself to love him? She’s known nothing but trickery and betrayal from the time her birth parents were murdered. Can she really trust the good she’s beginning to see in Cardan? He gave her an easy loophole to end her exile but she was too stunned and hurt to see it. He traveled to the mortal world to enlist her sisters’ help in saving her when she was captured. He gave her Mother Marrow’s cloak to protect her when they attempted an escape from Madoc’s camp. When she finally allows herself his love, she’s faced with an impossible decision between him and duty. Is she strong enough to make the correct choice? Can she sacrifice him, the only one she’s truly loved, for the good of Faerie? Or will she bind him to her again, just so she doesn’t have to be alone again?

“I missed you,” I whisper against his skin and feel dizzy with the intimacy of the admission, feel more naked than when he could see every inch of me. “In the mortal world, when I thought you were my enemy, I still missed you.”

“My sweet nemesis, how glad I am that you returned.” He pulls my body against his, cradling my head against his chest.

Most of the other major players that we’ve come to expect play a role have taken a backseat to this plot. Outside of Madoc, who drives part of it in declaring war against Elfhame, everyone else is relegated to supporting roles and flit in and out of the story. Taryn, Viv, Heather, Orianna, Nicasia, even the Bomb and Roach don’t have true side stories here. It’s basically 100% Jude/Cardan time and I was ready for every moment. But don’t despair. Everyone’s tale was brought to a close that made sense.

All in all, I give ‘The Queen of Nothing’ a 5 Star rating and the trilogy as a whole 4.5 Stars. If you love fantasy, trickster fae, dark romance, or complicated struggles for power… This is definitely for you!

For many long days, I have been terrified, and now, when I ought to be feeling great, what I want to do is hide under a table in the brugh with Cardan until I can finally convince myself he’s all right. And maybe make out with his face, if he’s feeling up to that.

PS: I didn’t know that the B & N edition has copies of Cardan’s letters to Jude while she was in exile. My library version was woefully empty in that regard. But I’ve seen some of them and โค โค โค *sigh* they are so cute! We’re never explicitly told who intercepted them before they got to Jude (I’m leaning towards Lady Asha) but in my mind, she discovers them one day and reads them all. When I can afford to buy my own book, it’ll definitely have them so I can swoon all over again. ๐Ÿ™‚


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