Read a full summary of The Wicked King, book #2 of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series, right here. This page is full of spoilers, so beware! If you are wondering what happened in The Wicked King, then you are in the right place!
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Wicked King?
Madoc trains Jude in swordplay and fighting. Taryn is learning, too. He has them team up to fight him. He hugs them after they lose.
Cardan is five months into his reign as king and five months into his one year plus one day submission to Jude. No one knows she’s pulling the strings to his every move and word. They hate each other as much as ever.
Jude hopes she can extend the link beyond then to protect her brother Oak, who she sent to the mortal world with her other sister Viv to have a semblance of a normal childhood before he returns to rule.
Jude sees Taryn dancing with her betrothed, Locke. They will be married in three weeks, and Jude wishes she and her twin were on speaking terms before then.
Severin and Grimsen come forth asking the king for a pardon. He will grant it for an oath, but they don’t want to be tied to another one. They want a chance to prove their loyalty through their legendary metalworking. Cardan grants this before the suspicious Jude has gone to protest and use her control over him to stop him.
A hag comes before him next with gifts. Jude senses some kind of deception and intercepts the transaction. The hex leaves her magical cloth as one gift for the king and leaves after revealing she was trying to compel him to marry her or her daughter.
Locke approaches, and Jude wishes their past tryst didn’t make her still respond to him. He wants to be the new Master of Revels for his king. Jude wants to have him deny this request but can’t find a way to tell him to do so under Locke’s watchful eye.
A Court of Shadows member approaches with another note to Cardan from Balekin that she intercepted. He wants his brother to come visit him in prison. Once again, Jude’s glad to be a part of the Court of Shadows because they have her back.
Jude goes to visit Balekin instead. But he won’t share the message meant for Cardan with her. On her way out, Jude snags a guard name Vulciber to take back as a captive.
Jude wants Vulciber to tell her what Balekin wouldn’t. But he doesn’t know what the intended message was. He says he has a better secret he’ll exchange for his freedom. Messages are being exchanged by Balekin and the queen of the Undersea. She’s planning to use the information Balekin is giving her to ruin Cardan. Jude is surprised since her daughter Nicasia is one of Cardan’s friends. Jude will get Vulciber a new position outside the prison if he promises to bring her news of any further communication between Balekin and the queen.
Jude is shocked to find Taryn in her room. Her sister doesn’t apologize but clearly wants to make up. She begs Jude to come to her wedding. Jude relents and says she’ll come. Then she offers to help Jude dress, the only thing she can think of to give as a thanks.
Jude is taking small amounts of poison daily to slowly inoculate herself to its affects.
The Ghost brings Jude to Cardan’s room where he, Locke, and two other faeries lie drunk and half undressed. The room is a wreck. Jude orders everyone out to find out why Cardan sent for her.
Cardan leads her to his bed and shows her the two arrows shot into it. Someone tried to assassinate him. He says he didn’t see who it was but that they faded into the wall as soon as the shots were fired. They search the wall and find a secret passageway they didn’t know about. Jude goes down the tunnel alone. It leads to the former king’s rooms, the ones Cardan didn’t want and no one dared occupy after his passing. Nicasia sits on the bed. Was this Balekin‘s plan with her mom: for her to kill Cardan? But she says she only wanted to kill the girl he was with. She went to surprise him in his room and then was furious to see someone else there. She shot at his guest in her jealous fury.
Jude tells her she will be executed for her crime unless she agrees to her terms. She wants to know what the girl’s mother wants with Cardan. Orlagh wants Nicasia to marry him and rule as queen. If not, she’ll use her water power to sink Faerie. Nicasia tells Jude that someone she trusts has already betrayed her.
Jude brings Cardan to her rooms, the only place she’s confident he’ll be safe. He asks her to kiss him. She hates that she wants to. She doesn’t do it. He falls asleep on her bed. She thinks of their past kisses and how much he hated that he wanted her.
Jude goes to the council meeting in Cardan’s place. He never shows up, so this isn’t unusual. She tries to convince the council that Orlagh wants to move against their kingdom soon, but they don’t believe her and quickly move on to other discussions. Madoc pulls Jude aside after the meeting and says he still cares about her despite the fact that she poisoned him. He’s glad she and Taryn are speaking again.
Jude searches the former king’s rooms, finding all kinds of artifacts. She’s making sure it’s safe for Cardan to move into. The Bomb is with her and admits she’s in love with the Roach.
Nicasia catches Jude staring at Cardan at a party, his request for kisses still ringing in her head. Nicasia still wants him, too, and wants to know what Jude has over him. Jude asks her about Cardan’s mother. She says she was a girl from the lower courts, and the king never even made her a consort.
Taryn posed as Jude to get a key to her room and is there waiting for her sister. She’d brought all of Jude’s old clothes and jewels as well as sketches for new outfits. Jude asks what she wants in return. Taryn doesn’t want Locke to be Master of Revels and wants Jude to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Jude says she will but is lying. She thinks Locke would know she’s the one who made the request and be suspicious of her hold over Cardan. Taryn’s eyes dart to Cardan’s clothes on the floor before she departs.
Jude talks with the former king’s seneschal. He tries to give her advice as he juggles. Jude leaves angry. He calls after her that he foretold she wouldn’t take his advice.
As Jude approaches Cardan, she thinks about how the kingdom, both nature and its people, react to him. She notices her ring on his finger. She realizes he stole it from her hand when he grasped it earlier on the day. He pulls her aside to tell her he made sure Taryn isn’t here to see the spectacle Locke created for tonight.
Jude hates how Cardan’s touch is affecting her. When he departs, she notices how familiar he now is with his subjects and how he even allows them to touch him without punishment. She wonders if he has changed or if she’s noticing different things about him now.
Grimsen brings him what looks like an earring, a single drop, apparently the first thing he has made in Elfhame’s service.
Jude finally spots who she’s looking for, Dulcamara from the Court of Termites. But then Locke makes an announcement. Jude was wondering when he was going to stir up this run of the mill ball. He says they’ll crown a queen of mirth tonight. It’s where they select a mortal girl to get drunk and hurl insults at, all the while she thinks she’s being honored as the new queen. He selects the only mortal girl at the ball: Jude.
The two dance as part of the sham and both seem to enjoy it yet hate that they do. When it’s over, Cardan says she’s free to go or stay. When Jude gets outside, she sees creatures approaching from the shore. Orlagh has sent them with a message they announce to the crowd: She wants to unite her daughter and Cardan in marriage. The announcement also gives threats for if he disobeys her up to three times.
Cardan hears them out and then welcomes them to stay at the revel. He calls Jude over and asks her to quietly pull his council together. He’ll leave the revel as soon as possible to meet with them.
Before the council gathers, Madoc calls Jude into a private meeting. He wants her to come to his side. He says the daughter he knew would be furious after being humiliated by the king tonight. He doesn’t know that they both want Oak on the throne eventually. He wants her to ensure that Cardan doesn’t marry Nicasia. He says the Undersea queen slowly conquered all of the other small sea kingdoms until she was total ruler. And he knows she will have Cardan and Nicasia do the same until there are no smaller courts below them and they rule everywhere. Jude will block it because it’s also not what she wants.
After others have given their opinion, Madoc asks Jude to give hers. Cardan is upset when Jude shares information about Balekin that she had not told him. He then asks Jude to bring Nicasia to him. Jude is frustrated by being ordered around but goes to fetch her anyway.
When Nicasia approaches Cardan, he says to tell her mother that the next time she threatens him, her daughter will become his prisoner. She says that even though the message was a demand when it should’ve been a request, there is wisdom in it. He then asks whether she would want to be bound to him forever in an unhappy union, and Nicasia says there’s more to ruling than happiness, and she thinks her mother’s idea is a good one.
Nicasia leaves, and Cardan kicks everyone out of the room except Jude. When only the two of them remain, Jude tells Cardan she will humiliate him in front of everyone if he ever issues her another order. Then she leaves, too.
Jude thinks over all of the possible options for rulers of the faerie world. She’s nervous about Oak’s presence at Taryn’s upcoming wedding. He’s too important to risk exposure to the realm at this tumultuous time. She decided to use a prisoner to send false information to Balekin about Oak. There was a woman at the prison wanting give Jude information about her mother. When she describes the woman to the Bomb so she can send for her, she surprises Jude by saying she knows who this woman is. It’s Cardan’s mother.
When they bring Asha before Jude, she asks for information about her mother. Asha gives small things, and Jude says that’s not enough. They’ve fed and clothed her and will give her a turn in the gardens before going back to prison, but she’s going to need to give up much more important information to win her freedom and secret passage away from their king and kingdom, like she’s requesting. Jude says to send word if she decides she wants to tell her more.
The council meets to discuss the safest path for the kingdom. Madoc wants to use Oak as bait to draw Orlagh out. Jude refuses to let this happen.
A council member stops Jude after the meeting to remind her that as the king’s right hand woman, she can fire Madoc if she desires and find a new general.
Cardan summons Jude to the throne room. He’s deciding on a dispute between two musicians with stolen lyres. Once that’s done, he pulls her into a small room she’s never seen before. He shows her a message Balekin sent him. He wants to speak to Cardan and wants him to get Jude under control.
Jude is glad her message from Asha has already been delivered. Cardan is concerned that there’s much Jude has done that he’s not aware of. He asks why Balekin is contacting him now. Jude admits it’s because she gave him information with that very intent. Cardan asks what he’s supposed to do with it then. She tells him to have Balekin brought to him in chains to see what he wants.
Jude asks him to seduce Nicasia to see if he can get some information from her first, though. Cardan can’t believe she’s asking him to do this. He practices his wiles on Jude, driving her crazy (much to her dismay). As they kiss, Jude thinks about how, out of all the mean things he’s done to her over the years, making her like him more than anyone else (against her will) is the very worst one.
Jude works as a spy the next day to try to distract herself from thoughts of Cardan and what happened between them. She finds Locke and threatens him to stop bothering Cardan. Locke can make him lose favor with and eventually power over his subjects every time he makes Cardan look weak. She also warns him to never hurt her sister.
Jude and the Roach travel back to the mortal world to retrieve Vivi and Oak. They stop at a diner when they first make it there. While they eat, he recommends Jude not keep things from Cardan, especially about his mother. He eventually convinces her that she needs to tell him.
Jude asks him about the Bomb. He seems interested in her, but he doesn’t really want to talk about it and isn’t sure he could trust anything she says because as a mortal, she can lie.
Vivi still hasn’t told her girlfriend about anything Faerie-related. She thinks they’re going to a normal wedding off the coast of Maine. Jude actually likes that Vivi hasn’t been honest so she can try to convince Vivi to bail, both keeping Heather in the dark about their heritage and keeping Oak safe in the mortal world. But there’s no changing her mind; they’re coming. She finally tells Heather the truth at the last minute, just before they hoist atop a magic steed they’ll ride to Faerie. She seems a bit awestruck but accepts it and Vivi’s withholding of the truth very easily.
Once they arrive at their family home, Jude pulls Heather aside to go over some rules she should know to keep herself out of trouble in Faerie. She gives her advice as well as rowan berries and salt. When they rejoin the group, Vivi wants to give Jude a gift she brought for Cardan, but Jude says she should give it to him herself.
When she gets back to the castle, Jude sees Cardan and Nicasia together. Nicasia is glowing under his attention. Jude can’t help but feel jealous.
Jude visits Grimsen to buy a gift for Taryn’s wedding. Grimsen first tells her he knows of her mortal father’s metalworking and maybe taught him a few things years ago, but he won’t say for sure. He says there’s nothing she can purchase; she’ll have to trade because he only deals in barter now.
In exchange for one of Jude‘s tears, she receives a pair of earrings that will magnify Taryn’s beauty tremendously. Grimsen also asks Jude to take a message to the king. If they go to war, he’ll fashion him armor of ice that cannot be penetrated and swords so strong Cardan will easily win.
Jude goes to the Court of Shadows to work on her safety plans for Oak. Cardan arrives to bring her news of what he discovered from Nicasia after a few kisses. Her mother plans to act during Taryn’s wedding. Before he leaves, he tries to bring up what happened between them the other night. Jude cuts him off and says she’s sure it served the same purpose for both of them: to get it out of their system. Cardan leaves with a tight-lipped expression.
Jude goes to Madoc to claim she wants to work together to ensure Oak’s safety now that he’s here. He’s suspicious of her intentions (and wisely so). She tells him she knows from Nicasia that Orlagh is planning to strike during the wedding. She also confides that she has a messenger through which she can get a message to Balekin.
Jude sends a note to Asha to arrive just when Balekin’s being brought up the stairs. It says she can get Asha off the island after the wedding.
Balekin comes before Cardan, basically saying he wants to act as regent to him even though he’s of age. He’s as cruel and insulting as ever, and Cardan sends him away. Jude can easily see the hate in Cardan’s eyes.
Madoc and Jude say three traps for the Undersea forces during the wedding to try to draw them to strong.
Taryn wants to spend the last night before her wedding with her sisters. On her way to Madoc’s house for the get together, Jude is attacked by men on horseback. She’s hit in the thigh with an arrow. She fights back and somehow escapes, but her horse is killed.
Jude sneaks to her old room and tries to treat the wound before anyone notices. Vivi finds her as she’s trying to stitch up the way it helps. She begs Jude to come back to the mortal world with her after the wedding so she doesn’t face all of this danger. But there’s no way Jude can.
The next morning, Oriana brings Jude a silver dress from her own closet for Jude to borrow for the wedding. It’s much more revealing then Jude would ever choose for herself, but she doesn’t have much choice. And it’s beautiful.
Jude sees Cardan not long after arriving at the wedding. She sees the same look in his eye that’s not unlike hatred that she saw the last time she was here at Locke’s house when he was watching her and Locke kiss. He just tells her nice dress. Jude is worried that she’s falling in love with him and, if so, how that will affect her where he is concerned. She tells herself she should kill him before she’s fully in love and orders Cardan to never be alone tonight even though the implications of the statement bother her.
Madoc heard their exchange and now knows about Jude’s control over Cardan. He says they’ll work together to defeat Orlagh, but after that they’re enemies.
Jude hears someone crying nearby and goes to investigate. She finds that Heather has been turned into a cat. It’s a charm that can be undone, and Vivi quickly reverses it and erases Heather’s memory of the incident. Jude is furious that Vivi didn’t prepare Heather better and that she would erase a memory Heather needed to learn from to keep herself safe.
Taryn finally makes her appearance. Jude notices the earrings she lost the other night dangling from her sister’s ears. Then she notices Locke’s limp. He and his friends are the ones who attacked her, perhaps as part of his bachelor party.
The Court of Shadows calls Jude away because there’s word that Orlagh has made her move at the prison. Jude first checks on Asha, but she’s safe. She sets her free and tells her it’s on account of Cardan that she does so. Jude goes to Balekin’s cell next. He’s gone. Orlagh has rescued him in hopes of marrying her daughter to him and making him king someday. It will be tough to do so since either Oak or Cardan must be the one to crown him. But maybe she has a plan for that, too.
The Ghost joins Orlagh’s party before they depart. He’s betrayed her. He’s been the one she was warned who was working against her from within her ranks. Jude is mad and sad. She’s hit from behind and blacks out.
Jude wakes at the bottom of the sea. She is held captive in a cell, and Nicasia comes to punch and pester her and eventually knocks Jude out. When Jude wakes again, someone is there to dress her and take her to dinner with Orlagh.
Since she isn’t wearing any charms or other protectors, Orlagh believes Jude can be persuaded to do whatever she glamours her. Jude has to act like she is under their spell even though Dane’s geas makes it impossible for faeries to control her. Orlagh tells Jude that nothing that is said or done can be spoken about to anyone besides those in this room. Jude will need to be a very good actress to convince them she’s obedient to their every command.
Jude is questioned by Orlagh, and then she gets to overhear some of their schemes as she sits quietly. One of the most important things mentioned is that Grimsen is making a new crown. If it‘s not a blood crown like the current one, then a relative might not need to place it on Balekin’s head to make him ruler. If Jude can escape, she now knows how to foul their plan: to stop Grimsen’s forging of the new crown.
When Jude wakes the next morning, she’s having withdrawals from the poison. She had slowly upped her dosage over the past few months and is now addicted to it. Her body is craving it.
In the quiet of her room, Jude thinks about Cardan, about how he grew up being tortured by his brother and feeling like he was not loved. She can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened between them if she had admitted the truth: that he isn’t out of her system.
After several days, somebody finally comes to June’s room. They quiz her about her life. She has to act like she’s forgotten all of the questioning when they glamour her to do so. She also has to pretend like she’s comfortable when she’s not and that she’s full when she’s not. She wants to escape but doesn’t have the endurance it would take to swim to the surface. Her life dissolves to just trying to survive hour by hour.
Balekin quizzes Jude about why someone who seemed to live only for pleasure like Cardan ever wanted to be king. Jude must scramble for an answer because her mind and body are exhausted. She finally says that maybe he did it to spite his father. Balekin considers this answer as something that might be true. He asks Jude whether she would stab Cardan in his bed if they ask her to do so. She says she would do it with pleasure. He orders her to kiss him. It’s a cold kiss. He then says to kiss him like she would kiss Cardan.
Cardan has offered to pay a ransom to get Jude back. She‘s surprised and wonders why. Balekin glamours her again to make sure she‘s loyal to them and that she’s intent on the plan to kill Cardin.
Balekin‘s freedom is part of the price of Jude‘s release. He says she’s to come to him in Hollow Hall whenever she can. If he ever drops a red cloth in her path, that’s her signal to come to him immediately. Before she leaves Balekin, Jude asks him whether he has the new crown. She holds her breath and awaits his answer. He says it’s very nearly ready. He orders her to avoid all charms to make sure she stays under their influence.
Jude wonders what price Cardan paid. Part of it is that Balekin is now the ambassador to the faerie world from the Undersea. But Jude does not know what rest of it is yet.
When she’s out of the sea and loaded into a carriage, Jude finds out that she’s going to Madoc’s house. She wants to go to the castle instead, but they don’t honor her wishes.
Taryn is there when Jude awakes. It‘s good to see her, but Jude knows she needs to get to the castle to talk to Cardan and to warn him about the Ghost, among other things. Taryn tells Jude she’s been gone about a month and that the high king and their father formed a truce to try to get her back.
Jude hears someone arrive and ask for her. It is Dulcamara from the Court of Termites. Jude figures she’s there to call in the favor Jude owes them after they helped her get Cardan crowned king.
Dulcamara tells Jude that Cardan gave the Undersea permission to attack and many people died with the promise of no retaliation from Cardan.
At first Jude doesn’t understand, but Dulcamara explains this was one of the conditions of her release. And Balekin chose the Court of Termites to attack. Dulcamara says they pledged to King Cardan because he was supposed to protect them. She says they never should have done so. She also reminds Jude that she still owes their court a favor. The favor they request is to kill Prince Balekin. Jude says she can’t. If she kills him, then they will be at war with the Undersea. She doesn’t care. She says then go to war.
Jude rushes to the castle to try to talk to Cardan. But the guards say they have been ordered not to let her in. Cardan could not have issued this order, but Madoc could have. And Jude thinks Cardan was somehow involved.
She goes to the Court of Shadows next and sees it has been destroyed. She hopes the Roach and the Bomb are okay. Next she sees Val Moren. They talk about Eldred’s and Val Moren’s love for him.
There’s only one other person Jude can think to turn to: Balekin. She goes to Hollow Hall to look for him. He gives Jude poison and tells her to use it to kill Cardan at the upcoming masquerade ball.
Jude sneaks into his old room to catch a quick nap. Then she goes through his closet and finds something she can wear. Then she sneaks through the passageway to Cardan’s current room. He’s asleep, so she covers his mouth with her hand before she wakes him. He pulls her onto him when he sees who it is. She tells him that Orlagh and Balekin planning his murder. She could’ve told him this sooner if he hadn’t barred her from seeing him. He has no idea what she’s talking about. Jude realizes it was totally Madoc’s idea to keep her out.
Cardan says he knows she wants an explanation for why he gave up the Court of Termites to rescue her. He said it’s because it took her being kidnapped to figure out how he truly felt. He became cruel long ago since that’s what his father believed him to be, and this has made it hard to sort out what he’s ever feeling for sure. He says while she was gone, he tried to come up with every order she would’ve given him and then he obeyed every one of them.
A crossbow appears in Jude’s vision and is lowered at her head. It’s the Roach and the Bomb, and they order the king out of his bed. They say that Jude is working under orders from Balekin to kill him. They search Jude and find the poison the Balekin gave her. She explains that he gave it to her and glamoured her, telling her to kill Cardan with it. But she explains that she can’t be glamoured of the gesh from Dane. She explains that if she was glamoured, she wouldn’t be able to tell them any of this. They have Cardan try to glamour her. When it doesn’t work, they know she’s telling the truth.
Jude asks when they knew about the Ghost’s betrayal. They found out at the same time she did. The Roach says she emerged from the Undersea even tougher than before.
Cardan sends for food and tea and won’t allow anyone else info the room. He carries the tray in himself. They decide the Roach will talk to Grimsen to ask him to choose a side. Cardan says he’s done a lot of research while Jude was gone, and he‘s determined that the best answer for Orlagh is not to overthrow either kingdom. He thinks she her best hope is to put Balekin on the throne instead of to overthrow him.
Jude goes shopping for the masquerade ball. The lady gives her a mask for free, her only requirement that Jude let her make one for the king if he compliments it. Then Mother Marrow provides her a bowl of soup as well as a dress.
At the masquerade ball, Jude tells Locke she knows he tried to kill her during his bachelor party, and she plans to retaliate. Lord Roiben shows up and says he wants Jude to make good on her promise. Jude spots Asha next and is shocked. She wonders whether Cardan reconciled with his mother.
Everyone keeps asking Jude where Cardan is. When he finally arrives, he seems very drunk. He makes a fool of himself. He eventually pulls Jude onto the dance floor and kisses her very publicly. She recognizes the taste on his tongue: wraithberry. He’s not drunk; he’s been poisoned.
Balekin announces this fact to the crowd and asks Jude to turn out her pockets. He had given her a vial earlier, and she realizes his scheme. She insists that he’s drunk and she needs to escort him away. Cardan says she’s right, and they leave together.
She makes him drink much water and eat something the Bomb brings to try to dilute the poison in his system. Nothing is helping.
Balekin sends a note that he has a remedy for the toxin. He’ll give it to Cardan in exchange for the crown. Jude says she’ll go get the antidote from him somehow.
She brings the vial Balekin gave her to execute Cardan. She says she’s going to drink it because she’s not important. If she takes the antidote and doesn’t die, then she’ll give the rest to Cardan and return with the crown. He pours the antidote on her tongue. Instead of swallowing it, Jude spits it into the now empty vial. It had been cleaned out and filled with water. Now it’s filled with the antidote. The two fight with blades, and Jude kills Balekin.
When Jude gets back to Cardan, she discovers Madoc had Taryn dress up as her and fool Cardan. They requested half of the army and for Madoc to be free from the demands of the crown. Cardan agreed because he trusts Jude.
Later that night, Cardan calls Jude back to his room and asks her to give him his free will back. He says this isn’t working and they need to trust each other. He asks her to marry him. Then she can give any royal orders she wants and won’t have to order him around to get things done. He says they don’t have to stay married forever but just until it’s Oak’s turn to rule.
Jude is reluctant but agrees. They perform the ceremony themselves right then and there. And then she follows through and releases him from his vow to her. They trade kisses in his bed that night, and Jude sleeps the best she has in a long time.
How did The Wicked King end?
A servant comes in the morning to let Cardan know his brother was killed in a duel. He immediately knows it was Jude. His tone is cool with her.
They go out for an audience with Orlagh, who the servant said just arrived. She’s furious Balekin’s dead. Cardan will accept no blame because it wasn’t his wish that his brother die. Orlagh knows it was Jude and demands justice. She threatens war, and he threatens to use his powers of nature to overwhelm her in her own sea. He can control the land under all of the water, after all. He says he’s ready to fight her people if necessary but promises to show no mercy. He causes a small new island to emerge from the water to prove his powers.
Cardan requests Nicasia stay behind on the land to serve as an ambassador. Jude doesn’t like this at all. Then he says he must dispense justice to Jude. He exiles her to the mortal world. She tries to protest that he can’t do this to the High Queen. But everyone just laughs and doesn’t believe her. She’s led away.
Jude has been home for a month. Heather isn’t there. When the glamour was lifted and her memories returned, she moved out. Vivi tells Jude to work to get back at Cardan.
There you go! That’s what happened in The Wicked King. Hope you enjoyed this The Wicked Kingsummary with spoilers!
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