Oak’s Side of the Story

Author: Holly Black

At the end of The Stolen Heir, Oak is left at Wren’s sadistic pleasure. She is slowly torturing him with the bridle and iron prison bars, making him pay for his betrayal. She is growing into her own, and all that was soft and compassionate is dying as her power matures. And now, she’s starting another war in Faerie. Can Oak atone in time? Can he regain Wren’s trust? Can he stop the inevitable tide of despair and vengeance that started generations before his birth?

In The Stolen Heir we see the story from Wren’s perspective. At first, this is jarring. We’ve spent so much time with Jude and Cardan, and now they are distant figures, and this new Queen of the North, with all her past trauma and broken heart, is trying to immerse us in a new story? Soon, however, we are one with Wren, with her complicated history, with her fear and inability to trust and her burgeoning love of Oak. And, of course, we know that Oak is up to no good, this wild child from The Court of Shadows with his winsome ways and twisted sentences. We end the book rooting for Wren, angry at Oak . . . and then. . .

. . . then we transition to The Prisoner’s Throne, where we are suddenly in Oak’s perspective. Wren is the monster here, aloof, obviously hurting, yet stronger. Oak tells his story, shifting from villain to hero. It doesn’t entirely resonate: Oak’s reasons, his plots, all of which could have been easily resolved with one honest conversation. It’s believable, the way

Image by Arndt Stelter from Pixabay

depicted, and yet absurd and frustrating to readers. Oak is oblivious, and the hard sale that he is somehow innocent now doesn’t feel entirely justified. We’re supposed to root for him, to see him as the good guy in a bad predicament who would do anything to do what is right for Wren and for Faerie? I maintain my suspicions. I didn’t want to believe Oak, honestly, and perhaps it’s because of his naivety or perhaps because I bonded so much with Wren in the first book that I am still enraged by the betrayal that is never well explained.

As the narrative continues, Jude and Cardan come into play, obviously part of fan service, but Wren is barely mentioned and I wanted more of her, especially as she has hardened into this new role, exploring seemingly endless destructive powers.

Still, despite my complaints, this is a Holly Black story, so its high quality and magical in all the best ways possible. The characters are dynamic (even if Oak is not perfect), empathetic, complicated, morally grey, and delicious in all the devious, backstabby, lustful, lonely ways that make them such an addictive dark joy for readers. We even have some giant trolls and storm hags thrown into the mix and everything is dramatic, dramatic, dramatic. Oh . . . and some long-time characters are entirely not safe. Another wonderful rollercoaster from the queen of the quirky and the imaginative. Recommended, even if it’s not perfect.


– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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