A Return to Elfhame in “The Stolen Heir”

Written By: Katherine Jimenez

This post contains spoilers for “The Cruel Prince” Series.

Holly Black’s Young Adult fantasy The Stolen Heir takes us back to the isles of Elfhame, although it has very little to do with The Cruel Prince trilogy.

In her sequel series, we learn about Suren, the child-queen of the Court of Teeth from the original trilogy, and her relationship with Prince Oak, step-brother to Jude Duarte, the main character of The Cruel Prince. The novel takes place eight years after the main events of the series which saw Cardan claim the throne of Elfhame and name Jude its first mortal queen. Now, having chosen to leave Elfhame and live in the woods, Suren finds herself returning to the Court of Teeth to save Oak’s father, Madoc, and take back Queen Mab’s bones from her evil mother.

Like always, Black did a great job at setting up a completely new story for her readers to experience within the same world of her first series. We even get brief references to the original novels.

A map from The Stolen Heir

Bought on its release day, Jan. 3, I finished reading the book on Feb. 27 while trying my best not to die of boredom reading a different book for my British Literature II class. I was left conflicted about Black’s latest series (the final book of the duology is scheduled for release in 2024). I fell in love with the main characters, Queen Suren and Oak, and have always been captivated by the world of faeries that Black creates. She developed the relationship between these two characters more carefully than she did in the first book of The Cruel Prince where the characters magically fell in love with each other in the final pages. However, the entirety of The Stolen Heir is Oak and Suren interacting with each other. I could understand why love was there.

My problem with the story is not really with the plot, characters, or world. In fact, I think she did an even better job explaining Elfhame’s magical system than her previous series. My problem is the writing. I’m not sure if it has to do with my dislike for first-person perspective or because the writing in the book was lacking, and at some points, bad. It seemed that Black couldn’t resist using the words ‘as though’ in every other sentence. Really. You can find the phrase multiple times in pretty much every chapter. It is as though she forgot to vary her sentence structure. At a certain point, I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes; I had to push through, though, because I was told the ending was worthwhile.

Was it?

Not really. Halfway through the novel any avid reader of YA fantasy could predict the ending. I would not call it “surprising” by any means, but I would say it was “exciting” for Black’s fans of The Cruel Prince, myself included. The ending leaves the reader desiring more, hence the second book on its way.

I gave The Stolen Heir four stars on Goodreads, despite it really being a 3.5. I was not a big fan of the writing, but that wasn’t what made me love her first Elfhame series anyways. Black is a fantastic storyteller and, though I wish she wrote more in her incredible third-person prose, I cannot wait to continue reading Suren and Oak’s story in The Prisoner’s Throne.

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