How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories - Book Review
Updated: Sep 7
Happy Friday, book witches! I don't know about you, but as the weather is getting colder and the days shorter, I have been craving light-hearted, cozy reads. Turns out, How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories was exactly what the witch doctor ordered.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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Pairing: Gyoza + bubble tea
RATING: 5/5 Stars
Plot: 4.5/5 stars
Characters: 5/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is one of the most beautiful, aesthetic books I’ve ever seen. The dust jacket and gold embossing of the naked cover, along with the illustrations scattered throughout, add so much to the book. There were moments where I stopped reading just to admire the beauty of the illustrations, letting them pull me deeper like Jude being dragged to the Undersea. If any one book could fully embody “fairytale vibes,” this is the one.
“Playing the villain was the only thing he’d ever really excelled at.”
This illustrated novella is not one story, but multiple—an interconnected collection of Cardan’s memories before, during, and after the events of the trilogy, in both the mortal realm and the land of faerie. Readers are given glimpses into what contributed to Cardan becoming The Cruel Prince. We’re also shown fresh peeks into Locke and Nicasia’s lives, and how they were catalysts for his cruelty.
“Boys change. And so do stories...”
It all begins when a troll named Aslog tells young Cardan a story, which they revisit multiple times over the course of his life and the novella. Aslog’s story changes as Cardan does, with a new ending and meaning for each retelling, each stage of his life. Each time it is retold, Cardan reflects on himself and his life.
Over the course of the book, we see him torn between being happy with the privileges of being part of the royal family and hurt by the reality of his life. We get to watch as he learns to accept himself and want better, which made my heart SO happy.
“Because stories tell a truth, if not precisely the truth.”
Not much of the content is “new." Like Taryn’s novella The Lost Sisters, How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories revisits instances we already know about. Unlike Taryn’s novella, this book doesn’t recount Cardan’s version of what happened in the books. It’s fleshing out things we never got to see on-page but were told about.
One of my favorite parts is seeing how Cardan came to own Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass; it's one of my favorite stories, but it's interesting to see a fairytale character being gifted a human fairytale and amazed by it. Cardan's first experience with boba and dumplings is also cute as hell.
"You can't eat some of a dumpling and put it back," Oak insists. "That's revolting."
Cardan considers that villainy takes many forms, and he is good at all of them.
“It’s absurd, sometimes, the thought that she loves him. He’s grateful, of course, but it feels as though it’s just another of the ridiculous, absurd, dangerous things she does. She wants to fight monsters, and she wants him for a lover, the same boy she fantasized about murdering. She likes nothing easy or safe or sure. Nothing good for her.”
Unfortunately, we don’t see much of Jude in this installment, though I expected that since the book is about Cardan and focuses mostly on his past. While I was hoping for more Jurdan moments, I wasn’t entirely disappointed.
There is a new adventure for Cardan and Jude in the mortal realm: a sort of epilogue to the series. I loved getting even this tiny bit and seeing him reflect on his feelings for her. I adore the way he talks about her and how they mirror each other––like, for example, the constant need to prove themselves. They’re just so damn cute and good for each other, which is why Jurdan is one of my favorite enemies-to-lovers couples.
“They are two people who ought to have, by all rights, remained enemies forever. He can’t believe his good fortune, can’t trace the path that got him here.”
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is a gorgeous book, from cover to content, that makes for a comforting, cozy, magical reading experience. Without a doubt, it's one of my favorite reads of the year. Its short length makes it ideal for reading in one sitting, before bed, or between to-dos. It’s also perfect for getting out of a reading slump.
If you’re a fan of The Folk of the Air series, especially Cardan, this is a must-read. If you’re going into it hoping for new content and/or more of Jurdan, you may be disappointed. But in my opinion, this book is in no way a letdown.