Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Stolen Heir - Holly Black

The closest I came to a new years resolution this year was to read and write more. So far I'm not doing very well. I'm surrounded by half-read books and am too often distracted by the news (grim) or too tired at the end of the day to concentrate on anything much beyond very low-brow television. I've got a week off coming up which I hope is going to restore my equilibrium a bit - or at least let me catch up with emails.

I read 'The Stolen Heir' via a kindle app and keep forgetting to write about it, but am recommending it widely at work. Holly Black is one of the few writers I've found (it's not been an exhaustive survey) whose young adult books work for me as an adult. I enjoy her writing, love her take on fairy tales and folklore, and have become more of a fan with every book of hers I've read.

'The Stolen Heir' picks up 8 or 9 years after the 'The Queen of Nothing', focusing on two of the younger characters from the last trilogy - Oak who featured as a minor but significant throughout, and Suren who if I remember correctly only really appeared in 'The Queen of Nothing', you don't need to have read the earlier books for this one to make sense.

Oak has grown from an indulged child into a troubled young man - which is Black's specialty, Suren who was a damaged child (another Black specialty) is an equally damaged young woman who has been living rough for a couple of years on the edge of both her own fae community and the human one she had known as a changeling. Together they set off on a quest to defeat Suren's mother. 

This is the first part of a duology - 'The Stolen Heir' is told from Suren's point of view, and the next book will be told from Oak's. There's a definite sense of only having half the story here which is tantalising - I'm very much looking forward to having the other side of the puzzle.

There are spoilers here so ignore this part of the post if you might plan on reading the book. There are definite echo's of Grimm fairy tales here, and maybe Hans Christian Anderson. I'm sure I've read a children's version of a fairy tale where a child is created from snow but I can't currently think what it was and google hasn't helped me. I can't imagine that Angela Carter didn't inspire Black - there's almost the same disquieting menace in places, though filtered to be age appropriate. I'm also reminded in passing of Edith Oliver's 'The Love Child' - possibly because the same fairy tales are source material for both. 

Altogether, this is a fun, absorbing, book with enough depth to it to be satisfying as well as entertaining. Black has moved things along nicely - the world is familiar to anybody who's read the folk of the air, but she's covering new ground too, and nicely setting us up for the next installment. 

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