Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

‘After being pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, Jude finds herself unmoored, the queen of nothing. She spends her time with Vivi and Oak, watching reality television, and doing odd jobs, including squaring up to a cannibalistic faerie. When her twin sister Taryn shows up asking a favour, Jude jumps at the chance to return to the Faerie world, even if it means facing Cardan, who she loves despite his betrayal.

When a dark curse is unveiled, Jude must become the first mortal Queen of Faerie and break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world.’

The Queen of Nothing was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I was lucky in that the bookseller that I’d ordered from shipped my copy nearly a week before release date, meaning I was far less paranoid about running into spoilers in the days around said date. However, I confess that I still sat down and read the whole thing almost as soon as I got my hands on the book, both because I was afraid others who had their copies might be posting spoilers (I would not assume deliberately) and because I am a terrible human being who, nine times out of ten, always reads the last page of any book before the first, and I knew that, despite being determined not to do this with The Queen of Nothing (as I hadn’t with The Wicked King), I would probably cave if made to put the book down for long.

My favourite elements of this series have always been the political intrigue and the manipulation that are a range of characters are capable of, which I feel is particularly well done in both The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King primarily because there are characters that are actually willing to go through with their threats and do whatever they must to achieve their goals. There are certainly some less than pleasant and manipulative characters in other series, but, in many instances, they shy away from executing the full extent of their plans, which rather takes away levels of characterisation and any tension created. Reading through the Folk of the Air series, I wasn’t 100% certain that any character was absolutely safe from the machinations of others or the meeting of a deadly fate at any time, which I don’t think I’ve experienced to the same extent with other novels (and is another reason I raced through The Queen of Nothing). I’ve seen commentary from others who say they don’t like Jude (and they’re perfectly entitled to that opinion!) because she is manipulative and is quite often selfish, but I can’t help but feel that she is a very honest character in how she looks at the world around her and herself. I’m not suggesting that she behaves particularly well towards others, but she takes on a world and people that have been a threat to her since she was involuntarily taken to Faerie and decides that she is going to take what she wants from it before it can destroy her. She knows what she can use against people and employs what tactics she must to ensure as best she can that she gets to strike first when she must, without apology – knowing she will not receive regrets or apologies from those who would view her as a plaything and mortal amusement.

I’ll admit that there was significantly less in terms of political machinations in The Queen of Nothing, which did disappoint me slightly, but there were other elements of it that I very much enjoyed, such as Jude and her sisters working together, when they have often been at odds for various reasons. I particularly loved what we see of Vivi and Heather and how they are trying to work through what Heather’s visit to Faerie has done to them and what she has learnt of Vivi’s powers – and her ability to make her see and believe anything she chooses. Some of my favourite things from the novel are actually not part of the standard edition, being the letters sent from Cardan to Jude during her exile, which are added at the conclusion of the story. The initial interactions between Jude and Cardan once she arrives in Faerie had me grinning and I really enjoyed the spans of the story where it was clear that neither of them quite knew where they stood and whether they could truly trust anything the other said or did. To my mind, there are a lot of threads introduced in The Wicked King that still need to be resolved, which gives me hope that we might see more material in this universe.

There’s a lot more that I’d like to go into detail about, but I don’t want to spoil specific pieces of the story for anyone so soon after its release date. When a few more months have passed, I hope to come back to this and discuss several character relationships in detail, especially things such as power dynamics and family ties.

In short: loved this series! It’s still one of my favourites and I hope to reread it soon!

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