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The Stolen Heir

The Stolen Heir by Holly Black


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Book Review

Wren is a faerie girl, raised by humans, who’s been living a feral existence. And Oak is a rebellious prince who will one day rule the kingdom of Elfhame. But they must take a quest together to defeat evil … and hopefully live through it.

Plot Summary

To the human eye, Wren is a disheveled girl who’s been living on her own—wild and feral—in the woods. She was raised by a nearby family after being found abandoned as a toddler. But then one night, years after being welcomed in and cared for, she ran away.

The truth, however, is much stranger than anyone in the human world could ever imagine. You see, Wren is far from human, even if she might look like one. That’s because she is a fae, a being from a faerie kingdom that exists right next to, but unseen by, the human world.

Without a magical glamour to disguise her as a human, Wren is blue skinned and sharp toothed—beautiful, but frightening to look upon. And there’s this: She never ran away. She was stolen from her adoptive human family. In fact, she loved her human father, mother and sister so much that when she escaped her wicked and torment-minded faerie captors, she fled to the woods near those loved ones.

So Wren creeps up and enters their home at night only to look upon their sleeping faces, longing be among their kind-and-caring number once more. But that can never be. So instead, she keeps watch in the woods and helps free foolish humans from awful bargains they make with Hags and magical creatures of the night.

That, however, is not to be her lot either. For there is a handsome and charming prince of the Elfhame kingdom, a young man named Oak, who has come to gain Wren’s help.

Oak is leading a quest against an evil and powerful faerie queen. In fact, it’s the very queen who stole Wren from her human family that night years ago, the very queen who tortured and tormented Wren for her own evil purposes. She is Queen Nore, Wren’s mother. And Wren may well be the key to this wicked woman’s downfall.

If that sounds like a fantastic and somewhat twisted story, it is. It’s also a story filled with dark magic and deadly creatures of the night. Finally, it’s a story and a quest that will fill young Wren’s miserable life with even more pain and torment.

But Oak’s quest may just be the only way that Wren will ever be truly free … or discover the power that she doesn’t know she has.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The faerie world is dangerous, permeated with dark magic and magical things. That magic keeps this “parallel” world hidden from human eyes. This story’s characters sometimes wander among humans, but their true appearance is always masked by a magical glamour.

Most of the characters here have their own special magical abilities as well. Oak, for instance, was born with the hereditary ability to “charm” those he speaks with and sway their decisions. That’s one of the reasons Wren always keeps a check on her feelings and reactions around him.

Wren has the magical ability to break weak spells. That ability, her cunning and her sharp teeth appear to be the only things this young woman has to defend herself with. But as the story unfolds, we learn there’s more to her strengths.

There is, in fact, quite a bit of intrigue, betrayal and wickedness in Elfhame. Queen Nore, who rules in the Court of Teeth, is at the core of this tale. She has an ancient relic filled with the bones of a powerful magician that she uses to create warriors from snow, sticks and stones. These vicious creatures do her bidding and strike fear throughout the land. Now, the queen is seeking the heart of another magical creature to make her power perfectly dominant.

There are also a number of curses in this tale, too. For instance, there are enslaved and cursed warriors who are half human, half falcon. And some magical blasts cause physical devastation.

Authority Roles

The members of Wren’s foster family are loving people. But they become terrified by Wren’s true appearance. Still, after she is gone, Wren’s human mother and sister worry for her safety and long for her return.

Generally, everyone in the faerie world is rather duplicitous and untrustworthy. Because of past treatment, Wren looks at nearly everyone there with a very wary eye. She does, however, find a few who take earnest risks on her behalf.

Profanity & Violence

Characters drink wine and other alcoholic beverages. Some get drunk.

Potentially deadly and bloody things abound here. Were told of the physical torture and emotional torment that Wren receives at the hands of her fae mother and father. She is chained up and beaten as a young girl, leaving heavy scars on her body. We hear how she and others have been attacked, scratched and cut by a variety of characters and creatures, then left to bleed.

Many scenes depict painful, flesh-searing torment. Trolls, ogres and other creatures die in sword and knife fights. A young woman has her tongue pulled out of her mouth and brutally cut off at one point.

Humans are attacked as well. One fearsome creature kills humans who learn too much about Wren and the faerie world and hangs their “pelts” on trees as a warning to Wren. Someone is magically blasted into a splash of gore and bone. Queen Nore wears her deceased husband’s severed hands around her neck like a necklace.

Sexual Content

Wren is very attracted to the handsome Oak, though she regularly pulls back and holds her emotions in check. Two male battlers are said to be gay lovers. We see repeated evidence of their attraction, but never hear any details of their private lives.




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Additional Comments

The Stolen Heir is connected to another series of popular books written by author Holly Black. And without that background, the story here can be a bit confusing to begin with.

However, with or without that backstory this is a faerie tale of pain and anguish that carries a very adult feel. Readers will encounter some nice messages here related to adoption and family. The story is relatively involving.

That said, anyone exploring this Elfhame tale will discover a deceptively dark, sometimes painfully violent world that isn’t often fun to travel through.

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Review by Bob Hoose

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.