I have mixed feelings about closing the door on The Queen of Nothing. When I look back to my childhood and the books that made an impact on me, Holly’s A Modern Faerie Tale trilogy is one of the first series that comes to mind. I was twelve when Tithe published and I remember discovering it at the bookstore and immediately falling in love. The magic and the magical beings felt so ADULT to me. Where books like the Harry Potter series portrays magic in a very black vs white and good vs evil way – Holly’s portrayal was all gray.
So, to say I was a little excited when Holly announced she was releasing another series set in the same world, I freaked out. For me, The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King did not disappoint. While the adultness that struck me at twelve, did not still ring true (my idea of adult has, thankfully, evolved) – I was nonetheless extremely invested in the story and characters. It is no secret that I love the enemies to lovers trope and who fits this better than Cardan and Jude? The rawness of their hate and love left me questioning HOW Holly could possibly wrap this up in a satisfactory way. Even I had indecisiveness, did I want them to end up together? Did I want their power struggle to continue? DECISIONS, DECISIONS.
We start the story back in the human world – months after Jude’s banishment. To make ends meet and not rely on the magic of her step sister Vivi, Jude has become a sort-of mercenary. She is hired to run errands and do the bidding of Bryern, an old friend of Roach, who gives her a cut of the profit. She is tasked with a particularly difficult errand, she needs to convince Grima Mog, a Red Cap and former general of the Court of Teeth, who has taken up residence in the human world to stop eating faeries. This bloodthirsty race are not usually amenable to any sort of bargain that they do not have the upper-hand, but Jude manages.
When Jude returns back to the apartment, she finds Taryn waiting. She’s on trial for Locke’s murder and is pregnant with his baby. Because Taryn can be glamoured into telling the truth by faeries, she requests that Jude takes her place. While Taryn is not aware of Jude’s geas that prevents her from being glamoured – she was hoping to circumvent the truth regardless since Jude did not technically kill Locke. After consideration, Jude decides to return to the Court of Faerie in place of Taryn, where everything promptly goes to hell.
The rest of the book is Jude’s navigation of others’ motives, discovering her own desires and limits, attempts at avoiding manipulations – all of which all culminates to who will sit on the throne in the end as the King or Queen of Elfhame.
I was hooked on this book from the minute I opened it. Something about a short book (this one is only 305 pages) almost makes it more enjoyable and binge-able and that is exactly what I did. I enjoyed where Holly took the plot of this book and I felt as if it was an appropriate close to this series that was so different than anything out there. Without spoiling anything, I will say I was happy with the ending provided to each character (with maybe one or two minor exceptions). While this book is not perfect, I do think it was still a 5-star read for me.
Too many series have a habit of continuing long after a reader has lost interest or the story is long past its prime; however, this series is almost on the other end of the spectrum. I don’t think it is necessary for a book to be 900 pages or a series to have 7 books to be complete – but there needs to be a consistent level of detail and immersion across content.
My main critique is that I felt that The Queen of Nothing lacked the level of detail of its predecessors and left me feeling a little whiplashed. A lot happens in The Queen of Nothing, and it’s all contained in 305 pages. What that means is we do not get the same insight into some of the story development that we have had previously.
The lack of detail is present in Jude and Cardan’s interactions and the progression of their relationship. We see a vulnerability from both of the characters that was not present in the previous books, and was therefore a little less believable to me without lead up and almost felt out of character for both of them. While I was thrilled to see them connect in ways we had not seen before, it just was extremely fast and I mourned the loss of their banter.
Another area I noticed some lack of detail is in wrapping up other character relationships like Jude and Nicasia. While there is a brief interaction its almost like the previous interactions never happened or that all is forgiven. I would have loved to see a little more time devoted to Jude dealing with previous wrongs and not just the plight at hand.
It seemed like Holly needed to pick and choose what she gave attention to and some things only got a broad sweep instead of the closure deserved. While the other two books in the series are extremely nuanced, this one just does not have the same intrigue and everything is laid transparently on the table.
Regardless of the shortcomings of development and nuance, this is an extremely action-packed book. Holly does not rest in moving the plot forward and all the power Jude has worked so hard to obtain is constantly in jeopardy of being lost forever until the very last chapter. It is a book that is hard to put down and will suck you in until it spits you out and leave you wanting more.