The Stolen Heir by Holly Black is the first part of a new duology in the Folk of the Air series which takes place years after the events in the original trilogy. This novel focuses on Lady Suren, who escaped the Court of the Teeth after her family lost the Battle of the Serpent. Now, Lady Suren lives as Wren, hiding away in the mortal world. When she is chased by a storm hag, Prince Oak comes to Wren’s rescue and recruits her on a mission to save his father and to destroy her mother.
I was excited, but nervous for the release of The Stolen Heir. While I loved the original Folk of the Air trilogy, I am always skeptical of new releases in the same world as they may not live up to the other books in the series. Although The Stolen Heir did have some successful moments throughout the book, it did miss the mark in several areas for me.
In The Cruel Prince trilogy, I enjoyed the many twists and turns driven by the characters and politics of their court. However, I found this area to be lacking in The Stolen Heir. I found that this novel takes more of an adventure-based approach which results in most of the novel being event-driven as opposed to character-driven. While there are some strategical elements throughout the book, readers are mostly kept in the dark as Wren, the main character, is not directly involved in most of the scheming compared to Jude, who narrated the original trilogy. The Stolen Heir lacks many of the twists and turns which made The Cruel Prince so fun to read. I predicted the major plot twist of this book fairly early on in the story, so the reveal at the end wasn’t as surprising for me. While the end does promise an interesting premise in the second book of this duology, it wasn’t entirely worth what I put into reading for me.
Another aspect which made The Cruel Prince so successful were the dynamic characters. Often times, Jude and Cardan weren’t necessarily likable, but they were very true to their characters and this was very clear in their words and actions. In The Stolen Heir, many of the characters remained flat throughout most of the novel. The choices they made weren’t extremely dynamic and didn’t raise the stakes as much as I would have wanted. Throughout the novel, I felt like I was being told who these characters were instead of being shown through their words and actions. For example, readers are told by many characters frequently throughout the novel that Oak is extremely charming and manipulative, but I don’t see it to the level that I have seen it previously in this series. Ultimately, Wren and Oak came across as watered down characters of other characters which readers have previously seen in this series.
That being said, there were some aspects of The Stolen Heir which I enjoyed. In the original series, readers spend most of their time in Elfhame. While other places and people are mentioned, they aren’t fully explored. In The Stolen Heir, readers learn a lot more about the fae world, including different monsters and courts. Another reason why I’m such a fan of the Folk of the Air series is that I typically enjoy Holly Black’s writing. I think she often does a great job of selecting precise words which clearly describe ideas and places. At the same time, I don’t think the writing as smooth in The Stolen Heir. Sometimes, it felt like there were strong quotes surrounded by weaker writing in order to have a memorable line.
Overall, The Stolen Heir was a decent book with potential. Unfortunately, most of this book felt like a set-up to me for the next book in the series and lacked many of the elements which I enjoyed from the original trilogy. I give The Stolen Heir three out of five stars.