The Folk of the Air Wiki

The Cruel Prince is the first book in The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black.

The start of a thrilling new fantasy series from bestselling author Holly Black about Jude Duarte, seventeen and mortal, who finds herself caught tangled in palace intrigues while trying to win a place in the treacherous High Court of Faerie, where she and her sisters have lived for ten years.


Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.


Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the Fae despise humans especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Book Summary

When Jude Duarte was seven, her parents were murdered by Madoc. Madoc takes Jude, her twin sister Taryn Duarte, and her older half-sister Vivienne to Elfhame. In Elfhame, they are raised among the gentry by him and his wife Oriana alongside Oriana's son Oak. Jude aspires to be a knight in order to become a permanent member of the Court, but Madoc forbids her. Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest son of King Eldred, despises Jude and often bullies her at school along with his friends Nicasia, Locke, and Valerian.

Vivi wants Jude and Taryn to live in the human world with her girlfriend Heather, but Jude has grown too used to Faerie.

Cardan’s older brother Dain offers Jude the chance to be his spy in exchange for immunity to any glamour except his. Jude accepts. On her first mission to Prince Balekin’s home Hollow Hall, Jude steals a copy of Alice in Wonderland. She discovers a letter from Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea and Nicasia’s mother, implying that Balekin will poison Dain with blusher mushroom. She also sees Balekin beat Cardan in a swordfight and lash him with his belt for not killing a human servant.

Jude meets the other members of the Court of Shadows: the Bomb, the Roach, and the Ghost. Later, at home, a piece of paper falls out of Alice in Wonderland and she discovers Cardan wrote her name all over it. She begins practicing mithridatism.

Valerian eventually discovers Jude is resistant to glamours and tries to kill her, but she stabs him. Locke invites her to a party at his house and gives her a dress that belonged to his mother Liriope. The next day, she discovers a golden acorn in the pocket of a dress Locke gave her that tells her about Liriope’s death by blusher mushroom. This clue causes her to reconsider Queen Orlagh’s letter, which she decides was merely indicating the location of particular mushrooms.

On one mission, Jude attempts to free a human girl named Sophie, but Sophie commits suicide. Dain found out that she stabbed Valerian and is angry at her for acting recklessly. He forces her to stab her hand. That night, Valerian tries to kill her in her bedroom, but she kills him. Soon afterwards, she and the Ghost kill a messenger, who turns out to be one of Madoc’s spies in disguise.

Before the coronation, Madoc gives Jude a sword forged by her biological father.

At the coronation, Balekin and Madoc stage a coup which kills the entire royal family except for Cardan. Jude and Cardan escape to the Court of Shadows headquarters, where she holds him captive. Cardan tells her, the Roach, and the Ghost that Dain killed a child he had with Eldred’s consort. He did so because of a prophecy saying if the child lives he would never be king.

Back home, Jude finds out that Locke has been dating her and Taryn at the same time and challenges Taryn to a duel. Vivi glamours them to stop, but the glamour does not work on Jude due to the geas. Madoc lectures Jude and tells her she can have anything she wants in exchange for Cardan. He also mentions a banquet held by Balekin. Vivi asks Jude if she wants to move to the human world again.

Jude comes to the realization that Oak is Dain and Liriope’s child and that Madoc wants to rule through him. She later interrogates Cardan and kisses him. She makes a plan to crown Oak and Cardan swears himself to her for a year and a day.

On the day of the banquet, Jude and Madoc duel over the crown. Jude manages to win by poisoning Madoc’s wine. However, it turns out that Jude has Oak crown Cardan so he can be her puppet king.


Main Series Novellas
The Cruel Prince The Lost Sisters
The Wicked King
The Queen of Nothing
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
Extra content
A Visit to the Impossible Lands