The Cruel Prince: The Folk of the Air, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Cruel Prince: The Folk of the Air, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Tricky fantasy will keep readers guessing until the end.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 40 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The Cruel Prince uses elements of Celtic folklore and mythology as inspiration for a tale of courtly intrigue. The plot raises questions about loyalty and family.

Positive Messages

Family members should protect each other, even from magical threats.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A human girl living among treacherous near-immortals, Jude has to stand up for herself and her sisters when certain members of the fey unleash their cruelty upon them. She's brave and resourceful, but also stubborn and shortsighted in her quest for respect or retribution.


The threat of violence permeates the plot, but it erupts mainly in a handful of key scenes. They involve knife- and swordplay, poisonings, and magical spells.


Jude shares passionate embraces with two supporting characters.


Swearing is infrequent in The Cruel Prince, mostly a few instances of "hell" and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcoholic beverages are served at fairy parties, and Jude overindulges one evening. Jude also drinks poisons to build an immunity to them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Cruel Prince is the initial volume of a new fantasy series by Holly Black, author of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and many other books. Based on Celtic folklore, it presents an original new take on Faerie and its inhabitants, the fey. The threat of violence permeates the plot, which includes stabbings (fatal and otherwise), poisonings, and deadly magical spells. Swearing is infrequent, with a handful of "hell" and "damn." Sexual content is limited to some flirting and a handful of scenes featuring passionate kissing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStudiousStudent March 13, 2018

Great book! Has more stuff in it than what CSM mentions

I just finished this book yesterday, and I thought it was very good. Holly Black is definitely a very talented writer. However, Common Sense Media did not pick... Continue reading
Adult Written byAmber H December 8, 2019

Fantastic book for mature readers

I absolutely loved this book and will be recommending to to all my friends. However, parents should heavily consider the maturity and age of their child and tee... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byIovebooks July 24, 2020
To be truthful this book is meant for 12 and up this is the 21st century kids know more than you think so this book can't do any harm
Teen, 17 years old Written byaithy June 3, 2019

A nice fantasy for an ordinary day

I wasn't that impressed with this book. I wanted to love it, but found it to be quite mellow. A lot of things happened, but I just thought it was ok and no... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE CRUEL PRINCE opens, mortal twin sisters Jude and Taryn have spent much of their lives in Faerie, but they are not accepted by the magical denizens of the land. Jude wants a position in the High Court, but it seems as if her every move toward that goal is thwarted by Prince Cardan and his dangerously annoying fey friends. When Jude is hired as a spy for one of the top contenders for the crown, she's put on a collision course with Cardan -- one that might prove deadly. Nothing, however, prepares either of them for a stunning act of betrayal that changes everything in the Royal Court.

Is it any good?

Some stories downplay the ruthlessness of Faerie, but this action-packed, twisty tale of magical intrigue makes it clear that members of the fey can be ferociously deadly. The Cruel Prince quickly sets up the conflict between Jude and Cardan, and author Holly Black finds numerous ways to keep the narrative exciting and unpredictable. Readers may foresee that presence of a cliffhanger ending, but most will be caught off guard by other surprises scattered throughout the book. The dialogue is droll, the characters vibrant, and the action near-constant. Only the first volume of a new series, The Cruel Prince is already a solid winner.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Cruel Prince uses Celtic folklore and mythology. What is it about these ancient stories that resonates with modern readers?

  • Fairies cannot tell lies. Would such a prohibition be a good thing in real life? Are lies ever preferable to the truth?

  • Prince Cardan and other members of the fey harass Jude and Taryn. What are good strategies for dealing with bullies? Which strategies make things worse?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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