I enjoyed Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, as well as other stories set in the Elfhame universe. So, when The Stolen Heir duology was announced, I was eager to see how things had progressed since Cardan and Jude were elevated to the position of High King and Queen. Granted, this story isn’t about them, but about Suren (Wren) and Oak. Wren is a girl around Oak’s age who was tortured and called the Queen of Teeth, despite the fact that it was clear in the previous series that she wasn’t in control of what was going on around her at the time. Though the last time we saw her, Jude had freed her and given her command over Lady Nore. Although Oak is the rightful heir to the High Throne, Jude and Cardan have decided to wait until he is of age before handing over the crown.
A runaway queen. A reluctant prince. And a quest that may destroy them both.
Eight years have passed since the Battle of the Serpent. But in the icy north, Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth has reclaimed the Ice Needle Citadel. There, she is using an ancient relic to create monsters of stick and snow who will do her bidding and exact her revenge.
Suren, child queen of the Court of Teeth, and the one person with power over her mother, fled to the human world. There, she lives feral in the woods. Lonely, and still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, she bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana chases her through the night streets. Suren is saved by none other than Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, to whom she was once promised in marriage and who she has resented for years.
Now seventeen, Oak is charming, beautiful, and manipulative. He’s on a mission that will lead him into the north, and he wants Suren’s help. But if she agrees, it will mean guarding her heart against the boy she once knew and a prince she cannot trust, as well as confronting all the horrors she thought she left behind.
- Published: January 3, 2023
- Page Count: 345 pages
- Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Thoughts on The Stolen Heir
The Stolen Heir is told from Wren’s first-person point of view and takes place eight years after the events of The Queen of Nothing. Wren (Suren) has been living in the woods alone after Lady Nore took off immediately following Jude’s judgment before Wren got a chance to issue any commands. Not that she knew what to command her anyways, as no one gave her any guidance, and she was a child. Also, she had nowhere else to go, which is why she ended up living in the woods. Wren has spent the years alone and has been working to free mortals from faerie bargains. As she doesn’t believe any of them are right, especially after the treatment she had after she was stolen away from her ‘unfamily’ by Lady Nore and Lord Jarel (who died in The Queen of Nothing).
Bogdana has also been killing individuals that Wren has attempted to get close to or was friendly towards at some point. So, she doesn’t trust anyone at this time and is constantly on the run from her. During one of these attacks from Bogdana, Wren is rescued by Oak. And we learn that Oak visited her before when he was thirteen, but Wren turned him away envious that he had people that cared about him while she has no one. Though she does visit her unfamily’s house, she doesn’t interact with them for fear that Bogdana will kill them after learning that they still mean something to Wren.
After rescuing Wren, Oak reveals that Lady Nore has stolen Mab’s bones from the section of the High Court that was buried following the explosion in The Wicked King. He requests Wren’s assistance to recover them, as she has command over Lady Nore. They are accompanied by Tiernan (Oak’s knight/bodyguard) and Hyacinthe (one of the cursed warriors that refused to repent for helping Madoc). Hyacinthe is also wearing the bridle that Wren was once forced to wear, which left her scarred. We don’t learn until later that Oak was not sent to undertake this task by Cardan or Jude. Instead, he’s doing it on his own because Madoc is being held hostage by Lady Nore and despite everything that he’s done, Oak still sees him as his Dad and wants to free him.
In order to free him, he must bring Mellith’s heart to the Citadel. Something he keeps a secret and plans to lie about by placing a deer’s heart in a reliquary. But considering the folk cannot lie, we know it’s with the group. We just aren’t told where. Though there are numerous hints throughout the book about the heart and what it can do.
I don’t know what this means for the second half of this duology. Wren is the rightful heir of Elfhame but was cheated out of the throne by Mab when she had Bogdana kill Mellith. But Wren wants Oak, so I think the two might come to some type of agreement that results in them becoming the new High King and Queen of Elfhame. And I don’t think Jude and Cardan are going to care much about handing the crowns over to them, seeing as they planned to give it to Oak within the next few years. Though I can’t imagine Jude being too pleased with Wren over imprisoning Oak and putting a bridle on him. And I can’t say I totally blame her. Oak has time and time again deceived her, and he’s one of the few if not only people that Wren allowed herself to be vulnerable with.
Wren does not like the fact that Hyacinthe is in the bridle that she once wore, nor does she like the fact that he is still cursed. So, while they are at the Court of Moth, she frees him from the curse. The bridle was already removed by Oak, as he didn’t want it taken by the Court of Moth. However, freeing Hyacinthe means she betrayed Oak, resulting in him having to duel for her freedom. This is when she learns that Oak doesn’t know when to stop in a fight; he only fights to kill, not for sport, as that is how he was trained by Madoc.
Similar to the Folk of the Air series, this book hits many of the same notes when it comes to the relationship between the main characters:
- Wren was stolen from the mortal world as a child, while Oak grew up in the palace after the events of The Queen of Nothing. Similarly, Jude was stolen from the mortal world as a child, while Cardan grew up in the palace.
- Oak has been interested in Wren since they met; however, Wren was also fond of Oak since he was her only friend as a child. Cardan was the same way towards Jude, but Jude was not interested in Cardan.
- Wren does not trust Oak and views him as an enemy. Same as Jude towards Cardan, especially as Cardan treated her poorly and once attempted to drown her by tossing her into a creek.
- Oak purchases a gown for a ball for Wren to wear. Same as Cardan does for Jude, though he initially did not tell her while it’s not a secret to Wren.
- Wren kisses Oak to make him uncomfortable, only to be kissed back by him. Though she mistakes this as him manipulating her after learning that he’s a love-talker (he can make anyone love him). Jude kisses Cardan with a knife to his throat thinking it would make him uncomfortable, only to find that he enjoys it.
- The romance is a subplot, not the main focus of the book.
- Oak does not tell Wren his plan which is pivotal to the end of the book (not stating the full thing of what he kept a secret as that would spoil the ending to The Stolen Heir). Jude did not tell Cardan her plan to crown him instead of Oak. In doing so, they betray the other half and one half gains command over the other. Again, not stating what that is so that the ending isn’t spoiled.
- Not a romance thing, but Cardan has a tail and Oak has goat legs as well as fox eyes. And Holly Black does not let you gloss over either of those things. They are mentioned often.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was nice to return to the world of Elfhame. I have a feeling the final book in this duology is going to be insanely interesting. And also continue setting up any additional spin-offs. Right now, I’m guessing there’s going to be one about the Undersea as there appear to be problems there. Or maybe those will be resolved in the background of this series, but I kind of doubt that. Though it would be odd to leave that open-ended. If you want my predictions on what’s going to happen in the next book, check out the spoiler section.
While I mentioned, a lot of points there were similarities between The Stolen Heir and The Folk of the Air series, but the overall plot was different. So, in a way, those more felt like callbacks or nods to the original series without copying all the notes. Or at least that’s how they felt to me.
I liked Wren/Suren as a narrator, but there were times were I found my attention strayed so I didn’t read this book as quickly as I have with other books. Maybe because the entire book is mostly en route from the mortal world to the Citadel, so it’s a lot of traveling. However, in the last quarter of the book things really picked up once they reach the Citadel, and I felt more compelled to read it at that point. Not to mention there are a lot of names, both new and old. So, at times I couldn’t remember who was who. Not to mention, a lot of times the characters felt a bit one-dimensional. So, I hope they are a bit more fleshed out in the next book.
With all that being said, I would have to give The Stolen Heir a 3.5 out of 5 stars rating.
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