Series: The Folk of the Air, #3, #3
on 19th November 2019
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Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.
Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.
Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.
And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…
I hesitated putting out a review for the first two books in Holly Black’s ‘The Folk of the Air’ series because I wasn’t sure if I could get into this particular cutthroat universe, but since I wanted to know how it all ended, I finally got to ‘The Queen of Nothing’ only months after I began the first book.
Can humans survive in a violent, alien world where rules are forged on blood and flimsy agreements? It’s the premise on which ‘The Folk of the Air’ is built, as Jude Duarte and her sisters find out when they are whisked into a place bordering the human world and brought up to navigate a grotesquely fascinating faerie world of fickle loyalties, back-stabbing folk and physical danger at every turn. Black’s world-building is solid in this aspect at the very least, as she carves out a vivid universe of humanoid, fantasy creatures with their own agendas and their own rules for the right of to exist.
What disturbed me I think, is that throughout all the 3 books, I found no character likeable at all, not least a protagonist like Jude Duarte whom I initially thought I could get behind. As well-rounded as Jude is fleshed out as the main character, her multiple deceptions, her deft scheming and manipulation and her ambitious and bloodthirsty quest for power simply made me view her with disinterest and indifference at the best of times and at the worst of times, I found myself disliking her rottenness (along with the others) to the core.
In the end, I still found myself frustrated with the series as an entire whole, whether it was because it felt like an ultimate ‘joy-ride’ in faerie-land and the weirdly disconcerting cross over into the human world, but a lot of it felt…purposeless in so many ways. Maybe I’m missing the point—which is, if you like betrayals, court intrigue and double- or triple-crossing manoeuvres and characters who are never wholly good or evil but for some very obvious exceptions, then this series is right up your alley.
Yet 3 books of the same-same felt a little too much for me, where redemptive growth wasn’t shown in some increase in self-awareness or but in characters wheedling their way into trying to live in contentious peace or exiting the plot in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind manner—until the next war breaks out, that is. There have been several fantasy series which had me blindsided and breathless with the type of magical adventure they weave; unfortunately I just can’t count this one as one of them.