DISCLAIMER: I will be spoiling The Cruel Prince, A Court of Thornes and Roses, and The Red Queen series.
If you’re anything like me, which many people on book TikTok are, you are obsessed with the enemies-to-lovers trope. Something about morally gray, dark-haired men seems to be taking the internet by storm; and, honestly, who can blame us? Even though characters such as Rhysand, Maven Calore, Cardan Greenbriar, and Hawke Flynn have the same aura (frustrated, mysterious, heavy-hearted bad boys), each respective author masterfully reinvents this common persona. Really, it’s the strong-willed female leads who bring life to the story and aid in the character development of their love interest. After all, the backbone of the enemies-to-lovers trope is the female lead presenting the male lead with unwavering brute and resilience, and the male lead changing his ideology as a result. With that being said, let’s jump into my review of some popular book series!
- The cruel prince
“Cardan grins at me as though we’ve been great friends all our lives. I forgot how charming he can be–and how dangerous that is.“
As a whole, I rated The Cruel Prince series as a 4.5/5. I have never, in my life, sat down and read a book in its entirety until Queen of Nothing. Starting off with The Cruel Prince, one of the things I love about Holly Black is that she did not diminish Jude to simply being a romantic pawn. Jude is an incredibly cunning and witty political spy that understands self-preservation better than anyone. I loved learning about the evolution of Jude’s relationship with Locke, The Ghost, Nicasia, Maddoc, etc., and how those relationships eventually impacted Jude and Cardan as a dynamic. I loved how, in the first book, Cardan had complete authority over Jude until Jude took Cardan captive. In the second book, I found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting for the moment when Jude’s control over Cardan ended and all Hell broke loose. In the third book, I found myself heartbroken that Jude didn’t understand the hidden message behind Cardan’s exile sentence. It seemed like Cardan and Jude were constantly trading the upper hand, until the last book when they finally achieved resolve.
Holly Black is truly the queen of ending books on cliffhangers and nothing will ever compare to the complete shock when Jude made Cardan the king of Elfhame. The thing with Cardan and Jude is that I never knew where their relationship was going. If I had to summarize their relationship into a flowchart, it would go: enemies -> friends -> enemies -> flirting -> enemies -> lovers. This, for me, is what really keeps the enemies-to-lovers series alive. I think it’s so easy to make a standalone enemies-to-lovers book, but maintaining reader interest in a series is an incredibly hard feat that Holly Black toppled. Finally, I liked that Cardan and Jude matured at the same rate. It’s so tempting for authors to designate one person in a relationship who “fixes” their imperfect counterpart, but with Jude and Cardan, both characters are incredibly broken and stubborn. Readers are able to see a mutual progression of Jude and Cardan’s understanding of compromise, respect, and trust in a relationship; and I think that is truly beautiful.
Since I love this series so much, I made a playlist dedicated to Cardan if you’d like to check it out.
- a court of thorns and roses
“I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.“
Although I’m still working on A Court of Wings and Ruin, I would give the first two books an average of 4/5 stars. This is an incredibly unpopular opinion, but I prefer Tamlin’s story over Rhysand’s story. Moreover, I prefer A Court of Thorns and Roses over A Court of Mist and Fury. That’s quite a lot to unpack and I’m sure 95% of readers just exited the page because of my controversial (yet brave) take. Hear me out, I do NOT condone Tamlin’s toxic tendencies, but they were interesting to read about. With Tamlin, I never knew if he was going to do the right thing. I never knew if Tamlin was going to help Feyre against Amarantha, I never predicted Tamlin’s spells over Feyre, and I certainly never predicted Tamlin confining Feyre to the court.
Rhysand, although he is incredibly loving, is simply predictable and boring. Granted, I do think the whole “soulmates” trope between Rhysand and Feyre is adorable, but that’s all it is, really. I want drama, I want suspense, I want conflict. Rhysand is simply too good to be true (i.e., helping Feyre against Amarantha, training Feyre, saving Feyre from her wedding with Tamlin)—I always knew Rhysand was going to do the right thing for Feyre in ACOMAF. As a result, I thought the plot was forgettable, predictable, and uneventful. I found myself having to Sparknotes the plot of the book several times throughout my read, which I almost never do. However, with A Court of Thorns and Roses, I never knew if Feyre was going to survive, and I most certainly never thought that Feyre was going to have to stab Tamlin in order to free him. I distinctly remember being on the edge of my seat when Feyre, being illiterate, was trying to decide between the three levers, one of which spared her and two of which would have killed her. The sheer amount of suspense and thrill associated with ACOTAR made ACOMAF so disappointing and forgettable. Sorry, but not really!
In summary, I love that Feyre has found healthy companionship in Rhysand, but that’s a bit boring. If I wanted a smooth and sappy love story, I would read Nora Roberts.
- the red queen
“In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don’t know if I’ll ever smile again.”
I was the toughest on The Red Queen series, giving it 3/5 stars. Truthfully, I’m not even sure if I would define this book as an enemies-to-lovers—I think it’s more appropriate to call this a lovers to enemies story. With The Red Queen book specifically, I instantly fell in love with Cal. The scene where Cal and Mare are ballroom dancing will forever hold a place in my heart, and I love the jealousy that dance incited in Maven. Moreover, I was completely enthralled by this book plot, and I would have never predicted that Maven and Elara would blame Cal for the killing of the king. Watching the slow decline of Maven into utter madness was beyond intriguing—I mean come on, he put his brother in an arena to watch him fight for his life. All because of relational jealousy! However, Maven’s madness soon became the only rewarding aspect of this series. After The Red Queen, I found that the books were flooded with battle scenes and sprinkled with romance. Sorry, but I didn’t appreciate sitting through 600 pages just for Cal and Mare’s relationship progression to be practically non-existent. The superhero-like fight scenes soon became boring and predictable, and I often found myself skimming the book to find scenes between Maven and Mare. This series could have been so good, but after the first book, the character development and romance were practically nonexistent.
Even though I’m tough on this series, I also made a playlist for Maven Calore. I couldn’t resist.
At the end of the day, we will always love the Cardan Greenbriars of the world (and the many forms his personality type comes in). Critique these series as you may, but we will always come back to read them again.