Book release days look different as a result of the pandemic, but the change has been happening for years. Some readers might remember the midnight festivities for the “Harry Potter” books, where fans queued for hours to be the first in line to get their hands on the newest release.
These days, book releases are quieter — when “The Stolen Heir” came out on Jan. 3, I embarked on the treacherous five-minute journey to Books-A-Million from my house, bought the book and came right home to start reading.
“The Stolen Heir,” written by Holly Black, has been one of my most anticipated literary releases since the final book in her #1 New York Times Bestselling series “The Folk of the Air” came out in 2019.
The first book in the series, “The Cruel Prince,” followed Jude, a human girl who has grown up in Elfhame, the land of faeries. These faeries aren’t like Tinkerbell, though — they’re something much darker.
Black’s adult debut, “Book of Night,” came out in 2022, the first deviation from her Elfhame tales in quite a while. I enjoyed “Book of Night” (I’m convinced I would love anything Black wrote, even a grocery list) but it wasn’t the same writing style “The Folk of the Air” I had come to know and love from Black.
Black builds up a gritty, fierce narrative voice through the main character in “The Folk of the Air,” Jude Duarte. A combination of the gruesome details and terrifying everyday reality of Jude as a human in Faerieland, and Jude’s determination to persevere over her environment creates a certain conspiratorial tone, even if that conspiracy is occasionally murder.
The fear that a new release would never live up to how much I loved the rest of Black’s young adult backlog was significant, but I am happy to report that her latest didn’t disappoint me.
There is so much room in Black’s writing skill for “The Stolen Heir” to go in a completely new direction from anything we’ve seen from her before, and in some ways, it does.
Wren, the main character, is almost feral, having grown up in the chilling Court of Teeth. She doesn’t concern herself with court rules the way that Jude did; her scheming looks a little different.
Oak, Jude’s adopted brother, has grown up spoiled in the High Court, and his charm is sweeter than that of Cardan, Jude's husband. He’s grown up since the end of “The Queen of Nothing,” and it shows.
“The Stolen Heir” feels like a return to the Elfhame we know and love, even if not much of the book is set in the places we’re familiar with, lingering just outside of Fairfold.
The book features folklore, scheming, the love of a “found family” and a classic “will-they-won’t-they.” Oak and Wren’s dynamic relationship fills in the gaps left by the absence of Jude and Cardan; their history as childhood friends who have grown apart several times, only to be pushed back together by some twist of fate.
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I loved “The Stolen Heir,” if you can’t already tell. My only gripe is that it ends with a classic Holly Black cliffhanger, and I have to wait another year for the next book.
After all, Black tells us that “sometimes life gives us the terrible gift of our own wishes come true.”