The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: FAQ [2024 Edition]

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Holly Black published The Cruel Prince in 2018.

It has quickly become a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

According to Leigh Bardugo, bestselling author of The Six Crows, The Cruel Prince is “lush, dangerous, [and] a dark jewel of a book.”

In this article, I’m going to answer some frequently asked questions about The Cruel Prince.

Please be cautious, as there may be spoilers below!

Is The Cruel Prince a series or a standalone?

The Cruel Prince series currently consists of three books.

The first book in the trilogy is The Cruel Prince.

The second book is The Wicked King, and the last book in the series is The Queen of Nothing.

Although this series is technically a trilogy, there is a fourth book that recently came out. This book gives a background on Cardan, before the events in The Cruel Prince happened.

This fourth edition is called How The King Of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories.

I personally have not had the pleasure of reading this latest addition to the series.

However, I believe it would help the reader understand Cardan’s character better.

Can you read The Cruel Prince as a standalone?

You could read The Cruel Prince as a standalone.

That said, the last chapter of this book ends with an intense cliffhanger, leaving the reader with a thirst for answers.

In short, the reader would miss out on many events that complete the story in the remaining books if left unread.

What are the main themes in this novel?

Power is one of the most prominent themes presented in The Cruel Prince.

Every character seems to be after it and would do almost anything to get it.

Other themes include:

  1. Familial love – This book focuses a lot on family and what it means to be loyal to them.
  2. Coming of Age – The story follows several characters within the age range 7-20.
  3. Cruelty – Hence, The Cruel Prince. Many characters have suffered through cruelty. This creates a butterfly effect in the way they treat others because of their own traumas.
  4. Romance – There is definitely romance, but it is more of a slow burn romance. To see the full evolution of the relationship, one would need to read all three books in the trilogy.
  5. Rivalry – as much as there is romance between the two characters (Jude and Cardan), there is also rivalry between them. Plus, many other characters experience rivalry as well. This is one of the bigger themes in all three books.

Where does it take place?

The Cruel Prince starts off in the human world, but the majority of the book’s events occursin Elfhame.

Elfhame is made up of three islands and a magical faerie court with many fey who despise humans.

These islands are called Insmire, Insmoor, and Insweal.

Jude, the main character lives on Insmire Island, in Madoc’s Stronghold.

Is The Cruel Prince a romance novel?

The Cruel Prince technically falls under the romance label.

However, I find that it gets more intense within the other two books.

There is definitely an attraction on both ends between Jude and Cardan. And the relationship progresses as the book goes on.

Is it an enemies-to-lovers?

The Cruel Prince is definitely an enemies-to-lovers novel.

The main love interest in this book is between the characters Jude and Cardan. Cardan hates Jude.

At least, that’s what he says. Jude has to handle a lot of insults and abuse from Cardan and his friends. Because of that, she throws it right back at him.

The author originally implies that Cardan hates her because she is human.

But we quickly learn that’s not the only reason why he despises her.

He hates her also because [SPOILER ALERT] he’s attracted to her.

He can’t stop thinking about her and hates her because of this attraction.

Is it spicy?

The Cruel Prince isn’t very spicy compared to other fantasy novels. There is some kissing, but that’s mainly it for any “spice.”

Is The Cruel Prince YA or NA?

The Cruel Prince is rated for young adults.

Is The Cruel Prince appropriate?

The Cruel Prince is appropriate for young teens, (14+) in my personal opinion.

It’s rated PG-13.

But parents should consider the fact that there are some mature and heavy themes presented in this book.

Drugs, abuse, bullying, kissing, and violence are prominent throughout the novel.

Who are the main characters in The Cruel Prince?

Jude Duarte

Jude is the main character throughout the trilogy and is 17 years old in the first book of the series.

She is the daughter of Eva and Justin Duarte.

The faerie Madoc and Eva’s ex-husband killed Jude’s parents. Unlike most in Elfhame, Jude is a human. Jude has a brave, bold, stubborn, and ambitious personality.

She likes to push away her fear, and not let others see when she feels fear.

And as much as Jude shouldn’t love Elfhame and the fey, she does.

Throughout the book, Jude and Taryn have to handle a lot of bullying because of their humanity.

This sets the stage for other important events that take place throughout the rest of the book including when she joins The Court of Shadows.

Cardan Greenbriar

Cardan is a Prince and the youngest child of Lady Asha and Eldred Greenbriar.

In fact, he is The Cruel Prince to which the title refers.

At the book’s start, he is 18 years old with midnight black hair, black eyes with golden rims, and a hairless tail with a bit of black fur at the end.

The author describes him as cruel, sadistic, manipulative, and very prideful.

He is the leader of his friend group which spends their days bullying Jude and Taryn.

Although Cardan has very unappealing personality traits, he also has a softer side which the reader discovers as the book continues.

In short, he is a very misunderstood character.

Taryn Duarte

Taryn is the twin sister of Jude and the daughter of Eva and Justin Duarte.

As mentioned above, Madoc killed her parents.

She is 17 years old, and the complete opposite of Jude.

She likes to submit to the fey, thinking they will leave her alone if she doesn’t test them. The author describes her as meek, submissive, and uninterested in conflict.

She resents Jude in part since Jude draws a lot of negative attention to the two, sometimes making the bullying worse for her.

One of Taryn’s dreams is to marry a fae and join the Court.


This dream comes true.


Vivienne is the 19-year-old half-faerie, half-human daughter of Madoc and Eva Duarte and half-sister to Taryn and Jude.

She has eyes described as a cat’s, and she has slightly pointed, furry ears.

Vivienne is the oldest of her sisters, and because of her Faerie heritage, she is the smallest too.

Hatred of her father consumes Vivienne for murdering her mother, Eva.

She is rebellious and tends to misbehave to get a rise out of Madoc.

Vivienne also doesn’t like the fey part of her.

She would much prefer to be in the human world.

And she is very protective of her sisters.


Oak is a faerie and the youngest of the siblings at only 7 years old.

In this book, the author indicates that he is the half-sister of Vivienne and foster-sister of Jude and Taryn.

Oak has tiny horns growing out the top of his head. Oak’s personality is pretty normal.

He’s a happy child and can be mischievous sometimes. The reader sees more of his character in the next two books.


Madoc is the grand general of Elfhame.

He has green skin, blonde hair, and gold eyes.

Madoc is married to Oriana and was formerly married to Eva Duarte – whom he killed.

He took in Jude and Taryn after he killed their parents, and took over custody of his daughter Vivienne.

Madoc and Oriana had a son, Oak, together, and that is what we know to be true in The Cruel Prince.

He is super protective of his family. The author describes him as ambitious, power-hungry, and ruthless.

He loves bloodshed and has no regrets about using violence to get what he wants.

He does love, but not in a gentle way.

Dain Greenbriar

Dain also goes by Prince Dain.

He is the older brother of Prince Cardan and has silver-gray eyes, the hind legs of a deer, and blonde curly hair.

Dain also has small horns coming out of his head.

Although Dain seems kind, generous, and helpful, the author later reveals his violent and power-hungry nature.

He created “The Court of Shadows” (a secret spy group that he recruited Jude to).

Balekin Greenbriar

Balekin is known as Prince Balekin. He is the oldest out of Dain and Cardan.

He has black hair, silver eyes like an owl’s, and pointed ears.

Balekin is also the worst of his brothers. The author describes him as wicked, violent, abusive, and neglectful.

He would do anything to attain power.

Locke, Valerian, and Nicasia

These three are a part of Cardan’s inner circle. All are horrible in their own ways.

Locke, resembling a fox, is sly. He’s manipulative and enjoys anything that would make him be a part of a story. He craves drama and entertainment in his life.

Valerian has golden hair and pointed ears and wears red fancy clothes.

He is cruel and murderous.

He also hates mortals and loves violence.

And he even treats his friends poorly.

Nicasia is the princess of The Undersea. Her Mother is Queen Orlagh.

Nicasia has blue-green hair that changes according to her mood and the ocean.

She has blue-webbed pointed ears and long limbs.

Nicasia is cruel, just like others in Cardan’s inner circle.

She is self-centered, and because of her princess status, she thinks she can get away with anything.

She is also quite jealous and has feelings for Cardan which makes her dislike Jude even more.


Orlagh is the cruel and manipulative Queen of The Undersea.

She has a condescending attitude towards anyone she considers inferior.

However, she becomes a more prominent character in The Wicked King.

The Bomb, The Ghost, and The Roach

These three are what make up The Court of Shadows, alongside Jude.

The Bomb is known as Liliver. She is tiny, has skin the same color brown as a doe, and has white hair.

She also has little blue-gray butterfly wings on her back. Because she enjoys blowing things up, her nickname became “The Bomb.”

The Ghost, also known as Larkin, is half-human, half-faerie.

He has very human characteristics, the only sign of fae being his pointed ears.

He is clever, and skilled at sneaking quietly and going unseen – hence his nickname, The Ghost.

The Roach is known as Van, who is a goblin, not a faerie.

He has green skin with scars. He has a long curved nose and black hair. The author describes him as charming, dapper, and friendly. He and The Bomb have feelings for one another but have kept it a secret from each other for years.

Does Jude become Immortal in The Cruel Prince?

No, Jude doesn’t become immortal in The Cruel Prince. She starts off as human and remains a human for the entirety of the novel.

Is it LGBTQ+?

Yes, The Cruel Prince contains LBGTQ+ relationships but the main character’s relationship is not.

The Cruel Prince vs. A Court of Thorns and Roses

The Cruel Prince is different from A Court of Thorn and Roses in many ways. I’ll address their similarities and differences below.


Both are set in faerie realms with magic, romance, fey/fae, humans, high courts, politics, and many other general themes consistent with fantasy books.

They both have an enemies-to-lovers trope in both, as well as the coming of age theme.

And both feature love interests between humans and the fey/fae.

Although Jude is 17 in The Cruel Prince, Feyre is 19 in A Court of Thorn and Roses, so both characters may have similar mindsets.


Whereas The Cruel Prince is rated for young adults and has generally appropriate themes and language, A Court of Thorn and Roses is definitely an adult novel.

The language, intimacy level, spice, and themes of this book are for a more mature audience.

I could only recommend it for late teens and adults. A Court of Thorn and Roses is also considered a rendition of Beauty and the Beast with similar themes to that story.

On the other hand, The Cruel Prince is an entirely new story not told before.

The Cruel Prince: Conclusion

I hope this article has answered some of your questions about this novel.

And if I didn’t answer a question you have about it, let me know in the comments!

By Susannah

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