Read or Die

Review of Holly Black’s THE STOLEN HEIR

The Stolen Heir by Holly Black

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms. Black’s world of Faerie is dark, gritty, and violent. It’s striking how different it appears from the usual depictions of the fae realm authors invent. Something I loved from the beginning. Throw in characters who are (and aren’t) more than they seem at first glance, and you get a rich tapestry that offers anything but “happily ever after” and pixie dust.

And there’s no shortage of those promises here. Lady Nore lives up to her reputation with the Court of Teeth. The Citadel is a magnificent creation of horror and wonder. And Bogdana straddles the line between horror and fairy godmother in a way only Ms. Black can deliver. From the moment Oak appears, the quest is doomed to failure in the most spectacular ways. That’s a given for anyone who’s read any of the Faerie books.

But Wren is too weak a character to carry the tale. She, alone, fails to live up to the expectations of her birthright. Even accounting for her position as a changeling. There’s so much lacking in her – an overwhelming sweetness that blocks you from finding her sympathetic or even likable. She doesn’t belong anywhere; too fantastic to be mortal and too dull to be fae. I assume Ms. Black designed her as such to have her rest in the between, but all it does is make her unappealing. Wren’s carted along as nothing more than baggage, yet she’s the POV character? It doesn’t work. The story drags because of her meekness.

And, because of the feeble thread of her character, the ending falls flat. The book reads like a maudlin conversation between two old friends over lukewarm tea. There’s no suspense or tension. I look ahead to the second book in the duology and expect Wren to crumble like a piece of wafer paper under the presence of Jude’s personality alone. You simply cannot compare the two. (And Oak is nothing more than a throwaway – added for romantic interest alone)

I love the world Ms. Black has created. It’s wretched and breathtaking at the same time. But I wanted more from this, supposedly, pivotal character.

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