How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black {Book Review}

My first five star read of the year, and hopefully not the last one, will be fun to talk about since it’s the first short story novella that I read in its entirety. Yes, this is the first short story bind-up that kept me fully immersed throughout. Since this is just talking about a novella, and not a full length novel, it will be a short review, but also filled with some spoilers.


This novella gives us Cardan’s point of view on multiple events we actually saw in the Folk of the Air Series, as well as introducing some of his earlier memories that are referenced in the series.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I still can’t get over the fact that I finished a short story bind-up. Typically when I get one of these I might read the whole thing, but it ends up feeling like a chore. It isn’t because I don’t like the characters, or the series. Obviously if I pick up a short story bind-up for the series I liked the series enough. What I struggle through though is how choppy it ends up feeling, or it focuses on characters that perhaps weren’t why I read the series in the first place. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories fixes both of the issues I have with these; the character chosen and the choppiness.

The first, Cardan. In the Folk of the Air series it primarily focuses on Jude, who to be fair is a great protagonist and the reason Cardan becomes the King in the first place. Cardan though remains a mystery in the series as he makes some interesting choices, and doesn’t always feel like explaining himself, or really have to. As a reader it really did make me wonder what drove some of the decisions, and the thoughts behind them. This short story novella did a great job of bringing up those moments, and giving us good insight without taking away from what was already written the first time, and it’s Cardan!

The other big thing this novella did was fix the choppiness of its stories. Well, it was still a little choppy, but in this case Black made the novella follow a plot, which all the stories fit into and followed. It gave us essentially a new story, while giving us moments we had seen, just in a new point of view. It’s a small difference to other similar novellas, but somehow made a big difference for me. It meant reading the entire book, and feeling like it was all cohesive, not just potential fan service.

A plus that I wish I had pictures for are the illustrations. All the images in this book were gorgeous and matched the artwork we’ve seen on the other books making it all just feel perfect for the subject material. All in all, this was just a high quality pieces, even without getting any of the special editions that were available for purchase as well. In all honesty, this is one of those books you could skip the other editions with if you wanted, it was just that beautiful to begin with.

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