Review posted March 6, 2023
Hachette Audio, 2023. 10 hours, 10 minutes.
Review written February 24, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Teen Speculative Fiction
Oh my goodness, Holly Black has done it again! The Stolen Heir begins a new duology set in Elfhame. (Yay! We only have to wait for one more book!) These events happen eight years after the trilogy The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. So those who were children in the earlier books have grown. You don't have to have read the trilogy to enjoy this book, but why not? It made me want to go back and reread them.
This book features Suren, who was once the child queen of The Court of Teeth, but bridled and manipulated by Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth. She was then betrothed to Oak, the young heir to Elfhame, as Lady Nore planned to use her to take over Elfhame.
Now Suren is in exile in the human world. She scrounges a life in the forest and spies on the human family with whom she spent the first seven years of her life, before Lady Nore stole her back and tormented and abused her. Without glamour, she's a thing of horror to humans, with the teeth of a predator.
Oak, on the other hand, has been living a life of luxury at court. He's beautiful, smooth and well-spoken, makes everyone at ease. Although like all the Fae, he can't lie, he does know how to deceive and manipulate.
Suren thinks she's at least safe in her lair in the woods. But then one day a storm hag comes hunting for her. She's rescued by Oak and his knight and their prisoner -- someone who wears the very bridle that once controlled Suren.
They tell Suren that they are going to the Court of Teeth to recover Mab's Bones, which Lady Nore has acquired and is using to create deadly creatures and wield power. Suren is Lady Nore's one vulnerability, having been given the power to command her. But because of that, Suren is now in danger. Lady Nore's simplest way to stop the vulnerability is to kill Suren.
Suren agrees to go on the quest. The storm witch coming after her has convinced her that Oak is right and her life is in danger unless she commands Lady Nore to stop. But she quickly realizes that Oak isn't telling her everything.
What follows is another story from Holly Black full of twists and turns that keep you guessing. What is Oak not telling Suren? And what is she keeping back herself? And how, exactly, do they feel about each other? As they travel on the journey, Suren must also confront the trauma of her past and think about how she wants to go forward.
The book is full of danger, schemes and counterschemes, and unexpected actions that weren't part of the schemes but are consistent with the complex characters. Suren has been told all her life that she's worthless and useless, so we're pulling for her as she tries to come into her own -- and figure out what that means.
The book ends in a satisfying place -- and yet an infuriating one, because the story is by no means complete, and we're dying to know what happens next.