Book Review: “The Stolen Heir” by Holly Black

Cover of "The Stolen Heir" by Holly Black
Cover of “The Stolen Heir” by Holly Black.

I read the past books that Black wrote connected to this one, and I overall did not enjoy reading them. However, this book got quite a bit of social media attention when it first released. I was tempted enough to pick up this one and see what it was about. This book is also the first in a duology as well.  Here’s a quick summary so we know what’s going on:

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.”

Plot Development: 3.5 out o5 stars

The pacing is much faster in this book than the original trilogy. I think it’s because the author assumes that this book’s readers already read the original trilogy. I’m glad I was one of those people that read the original books before this one. I would have little-to-no clue what’s going on in the story otherwise. Despite my utter dislike of the original trilogy, I actually enjoyed reading the overall story and its twist late in the book.

There are some parts that do feel lacking, however. I wish there was more time spent dealing with Nore than there actually was in this book. Yes, there are political shenanigans that everyone has to handle from other allies and/or enemies. But I wish there was more central focus on dealing with Nore and/or stopping her plans than actually shown in this book. This book has a roadtrip-esque plot where the characters go from one place to another. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s disappointing when there is not much time spent on the actual reason they went on the journey to begin with.

The book does end on a cliffhanger, of sorts, but this makes sense given that it’s the first a duology. I presume the cliffhanger was intentional on the author’s part. After all, it’s the first part of a duology and leaving it on a cliffhanger will entice the reader enough to pick up the next book.

Quick warning for those queasy with gore in this book: Without giving away complete spoilers, someone’s tongue does get cut out of their mouth and it’s described somewhat graphically. However, said tongue gets restored not too much later in the story.

Worldbuilding Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The worldbuilding is fine, but most of it relies on you having read the original trilogy to understand all of it. The map shown at the beginning of the book helps with tracking the characters’ journey.

What really impressed me, however, was the mythology discussed in the book, since it’s actually quite central to the main plot. This worldbuilding also feeds into the twist of the book, which I won’t spoil here.

However, some aspects of the worldbuilding could use more development. I would’ve liked to read more about Suren and Nore’s relationship than what I was given, as well as how that affected the Court of Teeth as a whole.

Character Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For those who miss Jude and Cardan from the original trilogy, they are mentioned several times in this book by various characters (especially by our main two, Suren and Oak, but do not make an in-person appearance. However, based on this book’s ending, I have a feeling that both are guaranteed to appear in the next one. There are also other characters from past books that return as well, such as Madoc for example.

I enjoyed reading both Suren and Oak, though I am mildly surprised by Oak’s development. Last we saw Oak, he was still a young child in the trilogy. However, he is now grown up by the events of this book. This is because there is an eight-year timeskip between the original trilogy and this book. I enjoyed reading Oak overall. He doesn’t capture the same sort of charm that Cardan and Jude does. However, you can definitely tell that he has traits from both of them. He takes after Jude for his deadliness, and takes after Cardan for,other behaviours that I can’t really spoil here.

I thought that Suren, also known as Wren, was fine to read as well. She’s not as charismatic and/or as interesting to read as Jude so far, but she does have clear motivations and is crafty in her own ways.

As for Oak and Suren’s relationship development, I’ll be saving that aspect for after I read the second book. This is so I have an overall view of their relationship development. Plus, it doesn’t help that this book ended on a cliffhanger either.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!

This was a good read overall, and I look forward to reading the next book. If you are a fan of Holly Black’s original trilogy, you might consider picking this up.


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