reviews

review: how the king of elfhame learned to hate stories

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES BY HOLLY BLACK

My rating:

★★★★☆ (4/5 stars). It complied to the vibe of the original trilogy, and made me understand most of Cardan’s actions in Cruel Prince. Also, the Alice in Wonderland book is mentioned and it made my heart aCHE because this is definitely a case of nature vs nurture. But it just didn’t live up to all the expectations that I imposed on it? Which is why I probably shouldn’t have such high expectations for any book 😳

And if you’re wondering why I’m posting a review before the book is even released, it’s because Amazon decided to ship preorders out early? This is the second preorder that I received 2 weeks before the release date, but I’m not complaining 😂

Context:

Let’s start with an introduction of how much I love the Folk of the Air trilogy. I read the first two shortly before Queen of Nothing released, and I fell in love with Jude and Cardan and the complexity of the plot. Also this book formally introduced me to the enemies-to-lovers trope, and now I’m completely obsessed. If you follow me on literally any other social media platform (ig/twt) you’d know how big of a Cardan trashcan I am (the answer is Large). But anyways, I had high expectations for this book, seeing as a) I’m starved of canonic judecardan content and b) the illustrations 🥺. However, only one of my expectations were fulfilled…

Illustrations:

So let’s talk illustrations first. ROVINA CAI IS SO TALENTED EVERYTHING IS GORGEOUS EXQUISITE P E R F E C T!! There were illustrations on every page, whether it be big or small. Also I feel it is necessary to mention that the paper was nice and thick and felt amazing while flipping through.

I really loved the pencil sketchy feel of the art, because that fits this novella so well. Everything has a fairytale kind of vibe (which makes sense technically because cardan and jude are the best rulers that elfhame had in a long time,, or maybe I’m just looking too deep?) and the sketchy illustrations are so amazing and literally everything I wish I could do. They really fit with the story as well, so it adds to a better reading experience. Also, we get to see what cardan looks like in a hoodie and I think that’s all I needed in life.

Plot:

“Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.”

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, Holly Black

Now, the plot… You probably already knew that How The King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is focused primarily on Cardan’s past life, which it is. Jude appears… rarely and kind of inconsequentially? There are 5 chapters where Jude was present (out of the 11 chapters total) and two of those are Cardan’s POV of what happened in the Cruel Prince (book 1). We get to see some of Cardan’s angsty longing/hating, but there is nothing from when he was writing the letters (does this count as a spoiler? I think it’s more an anti-spoiler because it’s not in the book). The other 3 chapters are post-QoN and are about the same side-plot, so I’d classify them together as one scene. But I liked how Holly Black built up Cardan’s character to show that he was only cruel because of the events that happened to him, and that’s what he was expected to be. Make sure to bring a box of tissues, because Cardan’s childhood really wasn’t great 🥺

Y’know what, I’ll give a rating to each “short story”/chapter just for the fun of it:

  1. The King of Elfhame Visits the Mortal World: ★★★☆☆ – Post QoN judecardan, but there just isn’t much substance? And the writing style kind of reminded me of AO3 fanfiction (not gonna lie, the fanfiction was even better than this,,) so I didn’t really like this one. The judecardan flying art is beautiful though!
  2. The Prince of Elfhame is Rude: ★★★★☆ – A tiny 9-year-old Cardan is neglected by pretty much everyone, which is so sad and contributes to his demeanour later in life. And then this troll comes and tells him a story, which starts the recurring theme in the book.
  3. The Prince of Elfhame Hates (Almost) Everything and Everyone: ★★★★★ – Cardan is taken in by Balekin after the Val Moren incident, and we witness the event that makes him hate humans so much (see I’m not giving any spoilers 😉) and also a bit later, he meets Nicasia and they become fast friends. Cardan realizes that being a villain is pretty great. This was probably the longest chapter in the book, and was so insightful and I loved it!
  4. The Prince of Elfhame Gets a Moth Drunk: ★★★★★ – We see the sweeter side of Cardan as he tries to do a morally good thing. Of course, he passes it off as nothing, but we all know he’s secretly soft. Honestly this was so adorableeeee
  5. The Prince of Elfhame is Mildly Inconvenienced: ★★★★★ – CARDAN IS ANGSTY LONGING FOR JUDE UNDER THE GUISE OF RESENTMENT IT IS AMAZING YET ONLY 3 PAGES LONG? TAKES PLACE BEFORE TCP!
  6. The Prince of Elfhame Gets Wet: ★★★★☆ – Or rather: Cardan and Nicasia get wet, and Cardan doesn’t like being underwater. The only reason I took off a star is because ew Nicasia.
  7. The Prince of Elfhame Is Given Two Stories: ★★★★☆ – The origin story of the Alice in Wonderland book that Jude found in TCP (actually so adorable though) and then the troll lady shows up again to retell the same story as years ago, but now with a different ending. I’m guessing it’s to show the different stages of Cardan’s life, and hinting at the actions he should take next. It was alright, I guess, but the retelling the same story as before gets kind of boring and slow because we already know most of it.
  8. The Prince of Elfhame Learns to Hate Stories: ★★★★★ – Locke and Nicasia do the deed iN CARDAN’S ROOM and then he beats Locke up (10/10 Locke deserved it). Sad Cardan makes me want to give him a hug 🥺 I, too, would like to beat Locke up.
  9. The Prince of Elfhame Stomps Around: ★★★★☆ – Retelling of a scene in TCP with Jude (again, look at my no-spoilers skills ahaha) but there is nothing new, just angst. Also I would like to beat Nicasia up.
  10. The King of Elfhame Tries to Do One Good Thing: ★★★★★ – CARDAN TRIES BUBBLE TEA. I REPEAT, CARDAN TRIES BUBBLE TEA. But anyways, this is set after the first chapter (which is after QoN) and there is judecardan fluff but not nearly as much as I hoped for. BUT STILL, THIS WAS SO CUTE AND ON-BRAND. And Oak is adorable I love him sO MUCHH
  11. The King of Elfhame Gets What He Deserves: ★★★★★ – Cardan tries to be the hero and succeeds and waits for Jude to come rescue him. 10/10 my favorite thing ever because their dynamic is *chef’s kiss* and Cardan’s heroism is *chef’s kiss* and I just want to give them a hug.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this book was good but I was expecting more. The art was perfect!!! I was a bit let down by the lack of new content but I mean… Canonic content is canonic content so I can’t complain. Was this a good investment? Definitely. I think more authors should do illustrated novellas! If you liked the Folk of the Air trilogy, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you buy this book too. But if you didn’t love it, then I feel like you won’t love this novella either. You get what I mean?

Let’s chat:

  • Do you like enemies-to-lovers books?

Yes!! I love the enemies-to-lovers trope with my whole heart. They’re amazingly complex when they’re done right (but of course, I’ve also seen some that were done wrong). But overall, I am obsessed with books of this trope!

  • Did you enjoy the Folk of the Air trilogy?

In case you couldn’t already tell: YES YES YES YES YE-

  • Did you/are you going to buy this book?

👀😉💸

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