There have always been tales and stories of a mortal girl who becomes the Queen of faerie. Because of her goodness, her beauty and bravery she attracts the King who decides she would be worthy of being his queen. Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy which ends with The Queen of Nothing is very different take on an old trope. Jude Duarte manages to trick Prince Cardan and makes him King, with herself as the power behind the throne, in the first book. In the second book she rules the kingdom and juggles the incessant politics and betrayal. She is ruthless in her desire to survive and defend her family as well as the shadow court of spies of which she is a member. The King starts to appreciate her not because of her goodness but because of her human ability to lie as well as her ferociousness and secretly marries her.
In the Queen of Nothing, Jude, who was exiled at the end of the second book, manages to find her way back to faerie and immediately gets embroiled in the power struggle between the throne and her adoptive father. As queen of faerie she’s having none of it. It’s wonderful to read that Jude manages to achieve her one overwhelming desire which was to make the faerie courts, both seelie and unseelie, afraid of her. Not for her the winning over with kindness, which is the norm in most such tales.
This book was an easier read than the previous two books, perhaps because things fall predictably into place and all loose ends are tied up, less ruthlessly perhaps than the reader has come to expect from the series. Jude is as feisty, resourceful and loyal as ever but has less opportunity to be so since (spoilers ahead) the wicked King is no longer wicked, the wayward sister is firmly in Jude’s camp, the popular girl from school now accepts Jude and the cannibalistic, vicious general from one of the rebelling courts has joined Jude’s fan club. For Jude, once she has been acknowledged as the queen, with Cardan’s backing and her own reputation, the troubles at court seem minor and the only real dilemma and contention in the book comes from her relationship with her adoptive father Madoc and her power play with him, while still seeking his approbation on some level.
The book, like all of Black’s books is very enjoyable but somehow lacks the intensity of the others in the series. A satisfying conclusion to Jude’s story nonetheless, ending with human and faerie alike, appreciating pizza. And who can argue with that?