How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories Book Poster Image
Villainous Faerie prince returns in charming prequel/sequel.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Stands out for positive messages.

Educational Value

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories. is based on Celtic mythology and offers an opportunity to discuss the folklore of Faerie.

Positive Messages

Stories are tremendously powerful and can change both the teller and the listener. Unpleasant people can learn to hold their tongues.

Positive Role Models

Cardan likes to see himself as a villain, but he's more compassionate than he likes to admit. His marriage mellows him considerably.


Cardan falls into a trap set by a troll, participates in sword fights, and is whipped by his older brother.


Cardan discovers his girlfriend in bed with another boy. 


A character takes girl to bed with him to "swive," an archaic word for sexual intercourse.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cardan attends a party, gets drunk, and winds up with a hangover.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Holly Black's How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is an illustrated coda to her  Folk of the Air Trilogy. Told from the perspective of Prince Cardan, the chapters depict his early days before bringing the timeline to the present day. There are some violent scenes that involve a whipping, swordfighting, and falling into a less-than-deadly trap. Cardan finds his girlfriend in bed with someone else. At a Faerie party, he gets drunk enough to wake with a hangover. Other than "swive," an archaic term for intercourse, there's no strong language.  

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byfeyre January 21, 2021

Much needed fourth book

I really liked it!! (except for the fact of how short it is) It was so nice to have Cardan's POV, and get a little glimpse of Cardan and Jude's life... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byShadowhuntress February 23, 2021
One of the best novellas I’ve read

What's the story?

As HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES opens, young Cardan finds himself dismissed to the stables at the request of his unloving mother. There he meets a troll, who tells him a story about a boy who spent three nights with a monster. As he matures into the High King of Faerie, Cardan will meet the troll twice more and hear a variation of the tale each time. Can he learn a lesson that will save his life?

Is it any good?

Sometimes a fictional world is so captivating that it welcomes further exploration, and this delightful coda to a well-done trilogy proves its merit. In How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, author Holly Black gives readers tales from before and after the original saga, offering a fresh perspective on familiar material. Rovina Cai's full-color illustrations lend an additional level of sophistication. This elegant extra-helping to the series might be enjoyed by the uninitiated, but you really need to have read the trilogy to get the most out of this new book. For longtime fans, this short novel will be a wonderfully welcome surprise.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories uses Celtic mythology to tell a modern story. Why is folklore such a durable inspiration for writers and artists?

  • The Fey are unable to tell a lie. What might it be like to tell absolutely nothing but the truth?

  • Cardan enjoys insulting people. What are the dangers of talking trash about strangers and acquaintances?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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