YA Review: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories

Title: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
Author: Holly Black and Rovina Cai

There is something extraordinarily exciting about turning the first page of a story book with pictures. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an illustrated children’s story, or this gorgeous collection of tales from Elfhame – beautiful artwork with beautiful words will always cast a spell. If the artist and the writer share a clear vision, the result can be magical.

I loved this book. Are the stories about Cardan’s past a necessary addition to the Folk of the Air series? No. Do they add to the reader’s understanding of his character and motivations? Definitely. Are they a pleasure to read, and to look at? Absolutely.

The stories in the collection include glimpses into the events of the Folk of the Air books from Cardan’s point of view. We see his relationship with Nicasia, the abuse at the hands of his older brother, and the moment when he realises he is haunted by thoughts of Jude. We follow him as he visits the mortal world (with and without his queen), and there’s a thread of stories exchanged between Cardan and a mysterious old woman, which change a little every time they are told. Each section adds a small insight into Cardan’s life and upbringing, without revisiting everything in the original novels. At the start the stories feel unrelated, but by the end it is clear that they have been very cleverly woven into the book. Cardan’s journey is mapped out in these pages, and revealed with a deceptively light touch.

The illustrations by Rovina Cai add a touch of magic to the words on the page. The images are dreamlike when they relate to Cardan’s childhood, but more realistic where they involve Jude. Where Cardan and the old woman exchange their tales, the illustrations resemble woodcuts or shadow puppets, perfect for a story within a story. The artwork is beautiful, occasionally straying across pages of text and interacting with the words.

This collection might not be an essential addition to the series, but it is a magical glimpse into the world of the Folk of the Air. It’s a quick read, and I’ll definitely pick it up and read it again, if only to experience the thrill of reading such a beautiful book.

Have you read How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories? What did you think of the book? And what about the illustrations? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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