No one writes high fantasy like Holly Black. She can weave an entire world together using words as if they were threads on a tapestry. Beauty and darkness are balanced together to create the world of Elfhame – a faerie realm that exists hidden from mortals. Folk of the Air was a series about a human girl living amongst the fey. Her latest book, however, tells a separate story about a much different character.
Stolen Heir takes readers back to the world of Elfhame. The story focuses on Wren, a character first introduced in a previous novel The Queen of Nothing. In that story, Queen Jude saw Wren as a child helplessly bound in chains. There is a bridle strapped across her mouth, drawn so tight it seemed like part of her skin. She orders Wren to be released, only to reveal what was kept hidden beneath the bridle – a sinister mouth full of jagged teeth, stained blood red. It was unclear then whether Queen Jude rescued a victim or unleashed a monster.
Stolen Heir attempts to answer this question by diving deep into Wren’s past. Wren is the rightful ruler of the Court of Teeth but was held captive by those who wanted to steal her power. Later she flees to the mortal world for her own safety. There she is found by Oak, heir to Elfhame, who has plans of his own.
Similar to the Folk of the Air series, Stolen Heir is a fantasy novel with a political core. It has all the magical elements of any fantasy story, but the true plot is about vying for power. Schemes lurk in every corner. Deception is a game well played in Elfhame. Since Faeries cannot lie, their treachery must be strategic. A slight of hand here and there, nothing truly false but at the same time not quite true. It’s a political chess match between characters. As the story unravels, more and more players appear on the board, making it harder to detect who’s moving what piece. It’s not until the story’s end that you begin to see the real game that’s being played.
Holly Black fans will not be disappointed with her latest fantasy installment. It has all the elements of her previous books, along with a plot that is faster and more cunning than the last novels.
Elfhame has a rich history, with many more characters to explore. I am certain readers will dive into the High Court of Faerie once again when Holly Black’s next book is released in 2024.