After being swept away by The Wicked King I knew I needed to read The Queen of Nothing as soon as it came out. This conclusion to the Folk of the Air series was satisfying in the end, although it felt rushed and a little to neat at times. I wouldn’t have minded an extra 200 pages for more character development, more action, and more Jude and Cardan. But maybe that’s just me. Warning: Massive spoilers for The Wicked King below (don’t read the synopsis if you haven’t read the first two books!)
THE QUEEN OF NOTHING
by Holly Black
Published by: Little, Brown, 2019
Hardcover: 308 pages
Series: The Folk of the Air #3
My rating: 7,5/10
First line: The Royal Astrologer, Baphen, squinted at the star chart and tried not to flinch when it seemed sure the youngest prince of Elfhame was about to be dropped on his royal head.
He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.
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…
Jude is stuck in the real world with her sister Vivi and her little brother Oak. She does what she can to teach Oak to be a good person, but she longs to go back to Elfhame. Whether she just misses the power she once held, her friends from the Shadow Court, or a certain king, she’s not ready to admit. But we readers know Jude well enough by now to understand that she’s not made for our world. As mortal as she may be, she belongs in Faerie. And as it so happens, an opportunity arises when Jude’s traitor sister Taryn arrives and asks for help.
Pretending to be her twin, Jude returns to Elfhame, only to discover that war is brewing (again). In disguise (well, sort of), she has to navigate her old family, find out secrets, and also save King Cardan’s butt from being assassinated. But it’s only a matter of time until someone recognizes her for who she really is…
I really enjoyed how all the plot strings from the previous books come together here. Madoc’s mad grab for power has reached dimensions where they can only be resolved by outright war. Jude and Cardan’s dancing back and forth finally has an end. But that’s the first thing where I felt the story went a little too quickly. Sure, much of their relationship was based on misunderstandings or their inability to just come out and SAY WHAT THEY FEEL, but here, Cardan felt like a completely different character. Suddenly, he just tells Jude outright how he feels. As romantic and lovely as that is, it felt out of character and came almost out of nowhere. Although he does still have a trick or another up his sleeve just to drive Jude mad. 🙂
The plot about impending war and its various rival factions almost felt like background decoration to me. I was fine with that because, hey, I’m not ashamed to admit that I read this mostly for Jude and Cardan. But there was potential here to do more. Or to do what was done (Madoc’s plan for the Queen of the Undersa is fantastically vicious!) but more of it. Everything felt a little rushed. A lot of characters from the previous books show up again: the Bomb, the Ghost, the Roach, and Nicasia. And they each get stuff to do and play roles of varying importance, but it felt like a bit too much was stuff onto too few pages. So I didn’t dislike any of this book, I just wanted more of it. Certain scenes could have lasted longer, some chapters could have been added just to give us a break between action-packed ones. But these are just my complaints and they’re not even really complaints… I’m just sad it’s over.
But there is maybe a bit too much plot for a 300-page book. So Jude needs to get back to Faerie, she needs to save her sister, there’s a war brewing, she finds out the queen of the Undersea is threatened, her friends are in danger, and then at one point, a prophecy about Cardan comes up – because Jude doesn’t have enough on her hands already. I’ll let Cardan tell you about that prophecy himself:
“There was a prophecy given when I was born. Usually Baphen is uselessly vague, but in this case, he made it clear that should I rule, I would make a very poor king.” He pauses. “The destruction of the crown, the ruination of the throne—a lot of dramatic language.”
Of course, this being a fantasy book, this prophecy is important! But in finest faerie fashion, it can also be read several different ways and doesn’t have to be interpreted literally. Not that Cardan has been a great king so far, but throwing one too many parties doesn’t equal the “destruction of the throne”, right?
Holly Black wouldn’t be Holly Black if she didn’t add a twist or two to her story. The first comes to you earily on and courtesy of Cardan himself, the second happens much later in the book – and that’s where the real action kicked off for me. Jude has a difficult and emotional choice to make, backed by allies, threatened by enemies, and the question is: Will she prove once again that she can outsmart the Folk? I won’t spoil anything for you here, but let me say that I love how clever Jude is and how she knows to play the faerie’s games and use their tricks against them.
The ending, quickly as it happens, felt well-rounded and satisfying. Again, I would have liked a bit more information, more about what the future might hold, more about the various Folk and their fate. But overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast paced thrill-ride that played with my emotions just the way I like it. It wasn’t as good as The Wicked King but it’s a worthy ending to a great trilogy. And I kind of already want to start reading all three books again from the beginning…
MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good