I am trying my darndest not to let my overflowing love for The Cruel Prince series get in the way of this book review. If you haven’t read that series yet, I recommend you pick it up first because the new story does contain huge spoilers. Holly Black leaves Jude and Cardan behind but continues the adventures in Elfhame with new, yet familiar characters. While The Stolen Heir did not enrapture me like its predecessor, it was still a great story that possesses Black’s characteristic faerie charm.
A wild and lonely faerie girl lives on the fringes of society. Wren haunts a human family and helps desperate people out of disastrous faerie binds. But mostly she lives a quiet existence in the woods and has become a lost—but not forgotten—faerie queen. Prince Oak remembers the tortured young girl and her role in the war that happened eight years prior. The wounds from that time still persist throughout the realm, and Oak has taken on a quest that will lead him straight to Wren’s meager wood hollow. With scars decorating their past, Wren and Oak will reunite and journey through Elfhame to tempt fate.
It felt so good to be back in Elfhame. This world that Black created is one of my all-time favorites, and I was happy to partake in the magic and viciousness that accompanied my travels there. Even though I’ve been to Elfhame before, it’s still unknowable with its variety of faerie inhabitants, tricks, lore, magic, and unbelievable landscapes. In The Stolen Heir, the story expands further as we venture to new places and other courts that existed on the fringes of Jude’s original story. I enjoyed exploring more of the world and interacting with new players that had different loyalties to the Elfhame rulers.
Holly Black writes vicious girls, and I love her for it. While Jude was all violent cunning and courtly intrigue, Wren possesses a feral desperation that makes her dangerous and unpredictable. She has been abused for most of her life and was raised by the cruelest of the fae. Now that Wren is out of their clutches, she is a solitary, wild thing. Wren’s viciousness mostly appears when she has to protect herself, so her sharp teeth are fair game if you ask me. But outside of her scrappiness, there is kindness and a desire to be loved. She is conflicted and scared, and she doesn’t emulate her terrible parents at all. Yet, Wren is still part of the fae, so her motives are nothing to bet on.
The essence of Elfhame is trust no one, and Black does such a fantastic job of making you question everyone and everything. I learned that lesson the hard way several times in The Cruel Prince series and happily fell victim to it again in this story. The interactions between characters have me second-guessing everything, and I’m constantly trying to read between the lines to suss out the true meaning. Deception seeps into the bones of these characters, it’s in their nature, and I just love watching them make moves to stay ahead of one another. Even those who claim fealty to the rulers still love to play their tricky games, and just because you’re a queen or prince doesn’t mean you’re safe. In fact, your odds of survival are probably worse.
This review was hard for me because The Cruel Prince series and its incredible leads hold a very special place in my heart. And while I was eager to jump back into this world and start a new story, I don’t feel as if my connection with Wren and Oak is as strong. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t love The Stolen Heir. I very much did, and I’m okay that it didn’t usurp the original series. Holly Black is an incredible storyteller and I will beg, borrow, and steal my way to Elfhame every time. Wren and Oak have a compelling story that enhances Elfhame lore, and I can’t wait for the second book to break me.
Rating: The Stolen Heir – 8.5/10