This book contains spoilers for the other books in the The Folk of the Air Trilogy and this review will hence also contain spoilers.
☾ about the book
Title: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air
Prequel: Queen of Nothing
Format: novella, hardbound (also available as eBook, paperback and audiobook)
Trigger Warnings: parental neglect, substance abuse (alcohol, namely wine), corporal punishment (namely whipping with a strap)
☾ the synopsis
Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.
Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone . Revealing a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan, tis tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.
☾ the characters
This book is written from Cardan’s POV. It recounts many scenes and events from the previous books in the series from his point of you (those parts of the book are the ones that contain the most spoilers), but it also provides more information about Cardan’s upbringing before the events of The Cruel Prince as well as scenes that are not mentioned in the original Trilogy thereafter.
Cardan’s character stays the same, but his affinity for villainy is explained and expanded upon in the novella.
Jude, Oak, Vivi and Taryn as well as other well-known characters from the original trilogy make brief appearances in some chapters, and before not mentioned characters are added.
☾ the world building
Most of the stories are set in the Elfhame of the original trilogy (when Cardan is not yet High King) and three stories are set in the human world after the events of Queen of Nothing.
This novella expects a knowledge of the previous books from the reader.
☾ what i liked about this book
I liked that this book doesn’t try to paint Cardan as a good guy.
He might not be the villain of the TFOTA books, but he is certainly not the most innocent character – he belongs more into the morally grey category with a shift towards villainy because he does a lot of wrong things for the wrong reasons, and even his relationship with Jude doesn’t really change his character.
I also liked seeing things play out from his perspective, but it wasn’t as lengthy as it would have been had Holly Black taken the full novel route – and I appreciate that.
I also appreciate the reoccurring tale of the boy (who is obviously supposed to resemble the slight shifts in Cardan’s character) – it does sound familiar, but I can’t quite pinpoint how. I do think that it might be a faerie-themed retelling of either a scandinavian tale or one written by a lesser known central-european storyteller, since I can’t seem to make any connection to the Brothers Grimm.
I also really liked the art. I think it gave the book a “fairytale” – touch, since many bound volumes of collected fairytales are also illustrated to be more appealing to children, and who doesn’t think that Cardan deserves to have an illustrated book? He’s so vain and egoistical that it really fits his character – and I mean this in the most loving way possible.
☾ what i disliked about this book
It could have been longer. Usually I am quite content when it comes to the length of novellas, but somehow it feels like The Lost Sisters was longer than this – and it isn’t. The Lost Sisters is only 50 pages (yes, I just looked it up and it honestly blew my mind).
I feel like we didn’t get as much information about how Cardan works as we could have gotten. I’ve always found that he is a very complex character, and to me it felt like How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories only scraped the surface when it comes to his character and his drive.
I found myself wanting more!
☾ should you read this book?
Again, because it’s a novella, that’s quite hard to say.
It’s not a novel, so if you need content to be satisfied after having finished a book, this one ain’t it.
Personally, I love any excuse (be it short) to escape back into the world of my favorite books without actually having to reread the actual books, which is also why I love novellas so much.
It’s a question of taste.
But if you like to gush about Cardan and his relationship with Jude, you should pick up this book becauseit’s a cute and quick read, and it will definitely make you miss the characters!