The Stolen Heir

Jude and Cardan still hold the throne of Elfhame. It’s been eight years since the final, bloody battle, since Jude’s sentences were dispersed, since the traitors started their punishment. Oak is now grown and rumors abound. Assassination attempts have already been launched – and failed. Will Jude and Cardan really step down? And what about this playboy prince, who’s rumored to break hearts and destroy lives?

Oak is ready for his first adventure. He is joined both by a loyal adherent and a fugitive. The fugitive is a man under a curse for betraying Jude and Cardan, a half man, half bird creature with a desire for revenge and his own broken heart. This rag-tag group soon runs into Suren, Oak’s original affianced, the abused and broken child queen of the Court of Teeth, who holds power over the Lady Nore and has since fled, living feral in the human world. But is this run-in a true accident? Is Oak here to help Suren? Are his motives to stop Lady Nore true and good, or is there more to the story? In between the spaces where lies cannot be uttered, all the hidden things lurk, and this much beloved prince of Elfhame may not have grown into the man we all expected and hoped.

Jumping into The Stolen Heir, I was expecting to pick up where The Queen of Nothing left off, to gain understanding about Oak, a child who already proclaimed that he did not want the throne but a normal life. However, this is really not Oak’s story, and here he stays mysterious and withdrawn, stuck in a liminal state between the child we remember and the manipulative young man he has become. This is Suren’s story, and it is a powerful, heartrending one. It takes a moment to let go of Jude and Cardan, who are far-away background figures, mentioned and never seen, and instead go into the bloody, obscene, violent Court of Teeth with an abused little girl grown into a woman in hiding, torn between using her own power, finding a place in the world, and hiding from all the evil and trauma that formed her life.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Suren briefly appeared in The Queen Of Nothing, and we remember her for the magical bridle that bound her, the one later used on the giant snake. Here, the bridle appears again, and we go into a dark fairy story, a tale of a changeling child in hiding, a lonesome agent seeking love and only getting used, time and again, a political pawn. Will Oak treat her any differently? This is the focus of the story, and the brutality of the ending is both earned and heartbreaking. Sureen, a background character, a pawn in her original appearance, is now a strong protagonist, and we find ourselves letting go of Oak in favor of this fey child grown into a complicated adulthood.

The Stolen Heir is dark, twisting, and emotional. The Court of Teeth is not for the faint-hearted, nor is Suren’s tragic backstory. Hand in hand with her, on this nightmarish adventure, where she fears contact with a boy grown into a man whom she still resents and secretly longs for, Suren finds truth and strength in adversity. All the complicated nuances of humanity that Black is so strong at evoking work perfectly here to create an unforgettable story with an ending that leaves us a little terrified, a little justified, and begging for more. What is our beloved Oak now, and where will Suren, this new power, find herself in the world of faerie now that she knows the truth and now that her broken, bittered spirit is healing in new and terrifying ways? I can’t wait to find out. I need more. I need more right now. Highly recommended. The Stolen Heir is not quite as good as the original that set us in this parallel world (The Cruel Prince), but I can see Suren growing in her own right into a power that rivals Jude, both in Elfhame and even in our hearts.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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